The Federal Government is not planning to convert Nigeria’s biggest and beleaguered airline, Arik Air, to a national carrier, contrary to speculations making the rounds since the takeover of the airline, Sunday Punch reports.
Some senior officials at the aviation arm of the Federal Ministry of Transportation disclosed this in separate interviews with SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday.
This is as the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria revealed that if not for the Federal Government’s intervention in Arik Air, the airline would have stopped operations on Monday, February 13, due to its heavy debts.
The PUNCH had reported on Friday that the Federal Government, through AMCON, had taken over the operations of Arik Air and appointed Capt. Roy Ukpebo Ilegbodu as its new manager.
The report stated that the airline was indebted to the tune of over N300bn, with AMCON alone owed N135bn, while its obligations to aviation fuel suppliers, insurance firms, aircraft maintenance organisations, the Federal Government and the various aviation agencies, as well as food vendors made up the balance.
Reacting to claims that the government was planning to convert the airline to a national carrier, officials at the transportation ministry told SUNDAY PUNCH that they were aware of the rumour, but described it as mere and false speculations.
The Deputy Director, Press and Public Affairs, Aviation Ministry, Mr. James Odaudu, explained that the government only intervened in Arik through AMCON in order to save the carrier from collapse, adding that the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had never given an inkling to suggest that Arik will be converted to a national carrier.
Odaudu said, “I have heard such claims too and they are just speculations. The federal government is not planning to convert Arik Air to a national carrier, I don’t have that information. Like the minister has always stated, the federal government will establish a private sector driven national carrier.
“As far as I know, I don’t think the government will want to start a national carrier with an airline that is full of encumbrances like Arik Air. Why did AMCON take over Arik Air? It is because of the problems faced by the airline.
“We’ve heard even senior officials of the airline saying that the Federal Government wants to take over Arik because it want to establish a national carrier, but to the best of my knowledge that’s not true. The truth is that as far as government is concerned, the more healthy airlines we have in the country, the better for us as a nation.”
On its intervention in Arik, AMCON stated that within 24 hours of the government’s involvement in Arik Air, the airline had started receiving assistance to be able to offer flight services.
Meanwhile, some aggrieved customers of Arik Airlines have commended the Federal Government for taking over the operations of the country’s biggest carrier.
The Federal Government, through AMCON, on Thursday, took over the operations of Arik Air, and appointed Capt. Ukpebo Ilegbodu as its new manager.
Arik has, in recent times, been in the news for negative reasons, from suspension of service on some routes to delays and outright cancellation of flights.
A commentator on Nairaland, identified simply as Dynamo, said his experience flying Arik airline was below expectations.
Dynamo said he recently booked a return flight ticket with Arik from Lagos to London but was told on the day of departure that the flight had been rescheduled without an apology.
A Facebook user, identified simply as Kayode Daodu, said the Federal Government’s decision was long overdue because of poor management of the company.
Daodu said, “This poor management (of Arik) has led to low morale from the staff as their passengers are been treated poorly, especially through flight cancellation and rescheduling.”
Narrating his experience on the medium, another aggrieved Arik customer, Ojo Adekunle, said the airline’s predicament was caused by its failure to care for its customers.