NUATE calls for intervention of Presidency over non isuance of AOC to NG Eagle airline

Photo Caption:
From left, Treasurer, National Union of Air Transport (NUATE), Comrade Sofiya Amga, General Secretary, (NUATE), Comrade Aba Ocheme and Branch Secretary Arik/Local State Council, Okoloji David at a press briefing held at NUATE Secretariat, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos

The National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, has called for the intervention of the Presidency over the non issuance of Air Operators Certificate, AOC to NG Eagle airline by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA.

NUATE said Information available to them suggests that the issue of indebtedness of Arik Air to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN and the NCAA is only a smokescreen.

Speaking during a press briefing in Lagos, today, October 13, NUATE General Secretary, Mr. Ochema Aba said that the real issue is the politics of a new national carrier.

According to Aba: “Indications are that there is the fear on the side of the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika that AMCON has positioned its new airline, NG Eagle, to metamorphose into a national carrier, whereas the Minister has been labouring for the past six years to create one which he has named Nigeria Eagle.
As AMCON and the Ministry are both agencies of the Federal Government, there is clearly no possibility of the two airlines operating side by side as national carriers. The fear is that if NG Eagle succeeds, then the Nigeria Eagle project would be jettisoned. That means one of the airlines must bulge. This, we understand, is the crux of the matter”.

Aba recalled that that the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and the FAAN Branch of Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP) did issue a joint press statement in which they urged the NCAA not to issue AOC to start-up airline, NG Eagle.

He explained that the basis for that was their fear that Arik Air was transforming itself to NG Eagle and would thereby escape its heavy indebtedness to FAAN and other aviation Agencies.

He pointed out that the the two unions insinuated that Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), the Receiver Manager of Arik Air, was using the assets of the Airline to float NG which has now transmuted into a petition by ANAP to the National Assembly House Committee on Aviation on which basis the Committee Chairman has directed the NCAA to withhold issuance of AOC to NG Eagle.

Aba said the Honourable Chairman was of the opinion that the Federal Government would lose revenue if Arik failed to pay its debt to FAAN in the form of 25 percent statutory remittance to the Federal Government by FAAN.

He stated that: “The intervention of the Presidency is urgently needed to avert the flight of integrity out of the NCAA processes by assuring that only technical issues stated by Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (NCARs), as have been already met to our knowledge, dictate the issuance of AOC to NG Eagle. In our humble view, the stakes are too high for our Nation to allow individuals’ interest to jeopardise national interest, especially as another round of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Safety Audit and United States of America Category One certification beckon”.

He stated further that NUATE has to resort to this public medium, rather than private communication, to make the plea because it is their believe that the public should benefit from informed positions on the matter.
He added that there is no gain saying the fact that the matter is already well within the public domain.

NUATE scribe noted that the intervention of the Presidency has become necessary and urgent to avert a chaotic end to Arik Air.

Aba explained that: “It is already within the public domain that AMCON is presently executing a receivership management over Arik Air as ordained by a competent court since 2016. This came about by the Airline’s insolvency as a result of a heavy debt pile. At the last count, Arik Air’s debt burden is in the region of three hundred billion Naira, whereas the Airline’s assets are worth only about half of its total debts. What this means is that Arik Air is unable to pay its debts. And it cannot under any circumstances.
This is a solid fact that cannot be altered by the denial of AOC to NG Eagle”.

He pointed out that Arik Air or AMCON cannot raise N19billion being demanded by FAAN and the NCAA, adding that it is honestly unhelpful to create enmity with FAAN or NCAA for Arik Air or AMCON since the Airline will always need the support of the two Agencies to survive.

“Therefore, those proposing that AMCON’s NG Eagle’s AOC should be on hold until Arik Air’s debts are settled are only pushing AMCON to the wall; and that is towards liquidation. Considering the airline’s low worth compared to its huge debts, liquidation will bring about a chaotic end to Arik Air by which all parties will be losers. This should be avoided by all means.

Therefore, intervention of the Presidency is needed to foster understanding on the issue of indebtedness of Arik Air to FAAN and other Government agencies with a view to aiding AMCON to continue with its rescue efforts in the Airline which is the best option for no w to safeguard all interests,” Aba stated .

He observed that should there be a chaotic end to Arik Air by way of liquidation, the workers would be counted among the greatest losers.

Aba said the denial of AOC to NG Eagle will shut out twenty thousand potential jobs for Nigerians, together with the opportunity for reasonable number of Arik Staff to migrate to the new Airline.

He added that the intervention by the Presidency will avert such a catastrophe.

And for NUATE as a trade union, this is exceedingly important. We feel all trade unions, including ANAP, should have the same view, he said.

He stated further that the integrity of NCAA must be protected by all means.

“One of the biggest casualties of this imbroglio is the apparent desecration of the holiest place in aviation, the NCAA, being the regulator of the industry. Political actors have ceased the stage to interfere and dictate to the Authority on whom to and whom not to issue certificates. This has thoroughly denigrated the NCAA and whittled its autonomy or independence granted by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Act. If this farce succeeds and NG Eagle is denied AOC despite meeting all requirements, but forces outside NCAA says otherwise, it would be a dangerous precedent capable of tumbling the entire industry and wiping out all the gains in safety and international recognition achieved over the past years,” he said:

NUATE scribe observed that the intervention of the Presidency is urgently needed to avert the flight of integrity out of the NCAA processes by assuring that only technical issues stated by Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (NCARs), as have been already met to their knowledge, dictate the issuance of AOC to NG Eagle.

Aba said AMCON needs praise, not vilification.

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