The continued hanging on to Arik Airlines and Aero Contractors by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) has become a source of concerns for stakeholders who are now demanding for the return of their investments.
Similarly, stakeholders have also expressed the fear that the federal government may merge both airlines to serve as the new national carrier- Nigeria Air, if the present arrangement on funding for the project collapsed.
AMCON had taken over the management of the two airlines sometimes in February 2017 over huge debts that was crippling their operations. Arik Air, National Daily gathered was indebted to AMCON to the tune of N135bn while Aero’s debt profile had grown to about N20bn. This is in addition to several allegations of mismanagement by the sacked board.
National Daily gathered that the essence of AMCON takeover is to save the airlines from imminent collapse, and return them to profitability which by all standards may have been met by now.
Industry experts who spoke on the two airlines argued that “AMCON as a government agency just came in to stabilize the airlines by protecting the employees, sustain the transport network and the economy which we can say it has achieved”.
One of the observers who pleaded anonymity noted that “It is time to handover to original owners possibly with terms and condition on debt repayment plan so that they can start investing huge capital in the airlines, paying creditors, buying aircraft and other routine growth plans among others”.
The expert was however quick to point out that “There are however, other issues which I don’t think AMCON has really handled which on transfer to the right owners, can be easily handled after all. These include issues bordering on workers’ benefits, indebtedness to various parties, and what to do with government’s stake in the airlines”.
Early signs of stability of the two airlines can be seen from the recent Aero Contractors’ divestment into the resuscitation of its Approved Maintenance Organisations (AMO) facility, which has since commenced Maintenance Repair and Overhaul services for Boeing 737 classics aircraft, plus the stability and sustenance of Arik Air in both local and regional operations since the takeover.
Recently, the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), at the their National Executive Council (NEC) decried the failure of AMCON to, in almost two years, honour the redundancy agreement, which ATSSSAN and other unions signed with the management of Aero Contractors in 2016.