The Federal Government on Thursday took over Arik Airlines and announced the appointment of a new management in a bid to save the country’s aviation industry from total collapse.
Under the new arrangement, Roy Ilegbodu, a veteran aviation expert, has been named to take over the management of the airline under the receivership of Oluseye Opasanya, a senior advocate of Nigeria.
Besides, the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON, said the government would give a lifeline to support the financially-distressed Arik Airlines continue as a going concern in the aviation industry.
AMCON spokesperson, Jude Nwauzor, said the government’s decision to intervene clearly underscores a commitment to instill sanity in the country’ aviation sector to prevent a major catastrophe in the country.
“The development will afford Arik Airlines, which is the largest local carrier in the country, to go back to regular and undisrupted operations, avoid job losses, protect investors and stakeholder funds as well as ensure safety and stability in the already challenged aviation sector,” Mr. Nwauzor said.
Arik, which controls about 55 per cent of the country’s passenger traffic, has for some time faced threat of liquidation as a result of heavy financial debt burden, weak corporate governance, operational difficulties, bad management and inability to pay staff regularly.
Apart from backlog of accumulated staff salaries, AMCON said the airline has the most demotivated workforce in the sector, while being in constant default in its lease payments and insurance, resulting in aircraft getting confiscated by lessors.
Besides, the airline has been operating extremely erratic schedules not good for a strategic carrier, with its flights routinely either delayed or cancelled without explanations to customers.
Other corporate issues, which have eroded Arik brand reputation include negligence of operational regulations, luggage pilfering or outright disappearances, poor corporate governance, and disregard for safety procedures.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said the government’s decision to take over the management of Arik Airlines would stabilise its operations, enhance its long term economic value, revitalise its ailing operations, and sustain safety standards, in view of its pivotal role in the Nigerian aviation sector.
The Minister pledged the support of the Federal Ministry of Aviation for the new management to make Arik remain a strategic carrier, saying the intervention was in the best interest of the general public, workers, creditors and other aviation interest groups.
“All necessary steps have been taken to ensure that there would be no undue disruption on Arik’s regular business operations or activities of other stakeholders, on account of the recent changes in the leadership and management of Arik Airline,” the minister said.
Meanwhile, the new management of the airline has assured both the staff and other interest groups that it would work to add value to its operations, improve customer experience, and sustain the safety, reliable and secure operational history it was known.
Prior to the takeover, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Wednesday, stormed the head office of the airline, to meet with its Chairman, Joseph Arumemi-Ikhide.