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AMCON Versus Arumemi: NUATE calls for truce, suggests pathway to continued existence of Arik Air

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The two warring parties for the ownership of Arik Air have been advised to sheath their swords for the continued existence of the airline called Arik Air.

At a news conference Monday, the Secretary General, National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, Comrade Ocheme Aba who gave the advice said, if the airline is destroyed with the ongoing legal battle by the Receiver Manager, Asset Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON and the owner, Sir Ikhide-Arumemi Johnson both parties will gain nothing.

He noted with dismay before receivership, that Arik Air was ran aground by it owner due to absence of proper due diligence, needs assessment, impacts assessment, forecast analysis, and clear business and operational objectives and that the Airline was not properly founded.

While at the time of receivership, Arik Air was indebted to AMCON to the tune of about N180B, while its total assets value was about N80B. 

“This clearly indicated that the Airline’s debt far outweighed its assets. So, Arik was incontestably insolvent or, in more simple terms, bankrupt”.

Comrade Aba noted that, after receivership, though no investment had been made by AMCON but things are beginning to look up for the airline.

He cited the prompt payment of salaries and bills by the airline despite its current state.

“The airline is presently paying all its bills promptly – to FAAN, NAMA, NCAA, fuel vendors, caterers, and other contractors. That means, no new debt has been incurred by the Receivers Manager”.

“Staff salaries are being paid promptly, and staff deductions of taxes and pensions are being remitted promptly.Staff promotions are now carried out periodically and salaries have been upgraded at least twice, not minding that rates are still low”.

He added, “Workers are allowed to join unions with three unions, including ours, operating freely, despite hiccups. In fact, the workers now have negotiated Conditions of Service which is in its first circle of review presently”.

The Union scribe observed that, against the background of the gloom and the doom that was sure to come had receivership not occurred, significant  gains have been made and should not be allowed to go to waste and must be protected.

To this end, he said, the Receiver Manager, AMCON and Sir Johnson must come to a roundtable to reach an agreement on the way forward for the airline, its staff and operations.

“As industry insiders we are assured that a simple determination among stakeholders will be enough to turn the fortunes of the Airline around”. 

According to him, cooperation is needed in this regards as the two entities (aside the workers) have the most to Gain, or lose, from the state of the Airline, adding that, a recognition of this fact will alter the present state of adversity/animosity between the two gladiators which has been anything but helpful. 

“We consider it extremely vital for the Owners of Arik and the Receivers Manager (AMCON) to accept the need to cooperate with each other. If the two parties agree to work together, and receive the understanding of the workforce, it is our concrete belief that a pathway out of the doldrums will be not too difficult to chart”.

Comrade Ocheme emphasized that, the matter at hand is not a legal matter but a purely financial one and only through  financial engineering, and not legal fireworks that a resolution would be achieved.

“For, at the end of the day, this is about defraying debts. The onus of this rests more with the owners. And we have cause to believe that AMCON should be willing to listen to a good offer in this respect”.

The NUATE scribe explained that, without investment, it would be impossible for the airline to move an inch and get out of the woods, suggesting two options to adopt.
“There presently exists a $34M down payment to Boeing for purchase of aircraft which has been lying fallow since before the receivership. By cooperation between AMCOM and the owners, this money can be released as part of the debt to AMCON. The workers inform us that this amount can conveniently bring back five Arik aircraft that are presently out of service. This action alone will return the Airline to profitable mode by which its indebtedness can continue to journey up north”.

“AMCON should relax its current stance of nil investment in the Airline. This posture is counterproductive to the Corporation’s chosen path of turning the Airline around. It does not make sense to us that after all the effort that has stabilized the Airline, then the effort is made to waste by a change towards liquidation”.

“Our honest advice is to ask AMCON to put behind the hurtful acts of the past administration which denied it the benefit of setting up the new airline of NG Eagle on the altar of personal agenda”. 

He expressed optimism that, a new reinvigorated attitude towards the profitability of Arik Air by AMCON will serve the Corporation in good stead, and will serve the larger interest of aviation, including the workforce.

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