Concerns As FG Plans Merging Aero, Arik For New National Carrier

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Concerns As FG Plans Merging Aero, Arik For New National Carrier

Arik carrier

There is disquiet among staff and managements of Aero Contractors and Arik Air over plans by the Federal Government to merge the two airlines as new national carrier for Nigeria.

There are strong indications that the Federal Government may eventually use Arik’s facility as operations for the new carrier while that of Aero would be used as maintenance centre for the new airline, Nigeria Air, which is scheduled to commence flight operations on December 24, 2018, according to Hadi Sirika, Minister of State for Aviation.

Investigation by Daily Independent revealed that in order to make the plan possible, the government earlier in the month changed the call sign of Aero Contractors while that of Arik Air still remains the same.

When contacted, James Odaudu, the Deputy Director, Media, Ministry of Transport, Aviation Unit, could not confirm or deny the claim.

He said: “Honestly, I don’t have any information on this. I know the fast-track committee is doing certain things on the issue of Nigeria Air, but I don’t have any update.”

Also, a member of the Transaction Adviser (TA), who craved anonymity, queried the huge indebtedness of Arik and Aero, saying that the total debts of the two carriers were enough to set up a new national carrier.

Like Odaudu, he declined to confirm or deny the plans by the government to convert the assets of the two airlines for the planned national carrier.

However, before the call sign of Aero was changed to ‘NG’ in 2013, the airline used ‘AJ’ as its call sign, but when the Federal Government during Princess Stella Oduah as a minister in the sector attempted to make the airline a new national carrier, Nigerian Eagle, it changed the call sign.

Efforts had reached advanced stage then to birth a new national carrier for Nigeria and the livery of one of the airline’s aircraft, a Boeing 737-500 with the registration number: 5N-BLC was changed to the colours of the then planned national carrier.

But, the aircraft was acquired from United Airlines by S7-Siberia Airlines in March, 2005 and the registration number then was changed to VP-BSV. Aero Contractors then acquired the aircraft from the second owner, S7-Siberia Airlines in 2008.

The call sign change earlier in the month of Aero Contractors was the third time such would happen to the airline in five years.

Aviation call signs are communication signs assigned as unique identifiers of airlines. No two airlines have the same call sign anywhere in the world.

The two airlines, Aero and Arik, are currently under the receivership of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) due to huge debts incurred by their former financiers, which they were unable to pay back as agreed with their respective financial institutions.

Though, the government through AMCON had debunked the claim severally that it planned to merge the two airlines as a national carrier and went ahead to unveil the name and logo of the coming national carrier on July 18, 2018 at Farnborough, Airshow in London.

But, the change in the call sign of Aero Contractors has further increased the fear in the sector especially among the technical staff of the two airlines.

A strong source close to Aero Contractors confided in our correspondent over the weekend that the government may eventually take over the facilities of Aero Contractors as its maintenance centre while it planned to use Arik Air for its operations.

The planned conversion of the two airlines as a national carrier, has however, raised fears among the existing workers who are unsure of their fate.

The source said, As it is, everything is shrouded in secrecy and jealously guarded away from the workers and some management staff. There are underlining questions about the fate of the existing workers. Will the workers be absorbed as contract staff or will the government be willing to buy off their years with the two carriers that are under AMCON at the moment.

“The sudden change of Aero’s call sign from NG to NIG has further increased the suspicion in some quarters. Don’t forget that the former call sign was AJ, but was changed to NG when Oduah attempted to use the airline as a national carrier and took one of the airline’s aircraft and changed the livery. Same thing is about to happen with this current minister.

“For an airline that is scheduled to commence flight operations in the next four months, nothing is heard of recruitment plans, offices, facilities and I learnt they have not commenced the processes for acquisition of Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC), which Capt. Muhtar Usman said can be acquired within 90 days, but the fact is that we all know this is not possible.”

Besides, it was alleged that Capt. Roy Ilegbodu, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Arik Air, may be working hand-in-hand with Sirika to convert the facilities of the airline to the planned national carrier.

A source close to AMCON told our correspondent that Ilegbodu has a very close relationship with Sirika, which the latter may want to explore.

The AMCON source also disclosed that talks were ongoing between the two former owners of the airlines, Sir Johnson Arumemi-Ikhide and Ibru’s family on the possibility of diverting the resources of the two airlines for the national carrier.

But, our source was not privy to the outcome of the meeting between the government and the former owners.

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