Unions appeal to Sirika, National Assembly, other on intervention that could save Aero, Arik

The aviation Workers Unions have appealed to the National Assembly, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, and Minister of Labour & Employment, Senator Chris Ngige to use their good offices to cause an intervention that could save Aero and Arik, the workers and their families, as well as Nigeria’s aviation industry from imminent disaster.

The unions who stated this on Monday during a press briefing at the secretariat of the National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, in Lagos with the title ‘who wants Aero Gone and why kill Arik’ called for a probe of the circumstances surrounding the rumored selling of one or both of the Airlines to the promoters of 5A’s for cheap after the Airlines must have been forced to the ground by an artificially created financial crumbling.

The unions also called for strong and deeply reflective interface among the Ministry of Aviation, Asset Management Corporation, AMCON and the legacy shareholders of Aero Contractors and Arik Air for the purpose of knocking out a deal that could truly rejuvenate the airlines, one way or another and resolve the legacy owners’ imbroglio once and for all.

Speaking during the press briefing, Comrade Ocheme, the general secretary of NUATE, who was joined by Comrade Frances Akinjole
Deputy General Secretary Air Transport Services Senior Services Association of Nigeria, ATSSSAN, and workers of the airlines called for a complete stop on further attempts to truncate genuine revamping efforts at keeping these airlines on the part of recovery.

Ocheme Specifically called for a halt of further attempts through House of 5A’s to force any phony lease contracts down the throat of Aero Contractors and Arik Air.

Ocheme reiterated their call on AMCON to immediately replace the Receiver Manager of Aero Contractors because the assignment is obviously well outside his competence as clearly marked by his abdication of his role.

He appealled to AMCON not to allow any form of weariness stand in the way of efforts to achieve the plan of turning around the fortunes of the two Airlines.

NUATE scribe stated that:”We wish to share with AMCON our unshaking belief that the task can, and must, be done. It requires, though, that all hands must be on deck and working harmoniously. To this effort we pledge our cooperation and collaboration”.

Ocheme explained that
it is crystal clear from the foregoing that some forces are toying with the lives of Aero Contractors and Arik Air which translates as toying with the lives and livelihood of thousands of Nigerian citizens.

He said this also means toying with Nigeria’s aviation ecosystem. And we hold strongly that these forces do not mean well for Nigeria, but may have a lot to benefit selfishly. As such, it is important for the Nigerian government and the Nigerian people to counter and neutralize these dark forces.

Ocheme maintained that this intervention is their effort to lay bare all the underlining issues to the Aero-Arik conundrum, with the objective of causing ameliorative actions to avert a major aviation disaster that could be, should the unimaginable happen to the two airlines.

In his words: “Discerning members of the aviation community would not have missed the frenetic goings on around AMCON’s involvement with aviation in the preceding months. Aero Contractors and Arik Air, both being under the receivership of the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) have been in the eye of the storm all too often since the last quarter of last year, unfortunately not for good reasons. AMCON itself has had to join the fray, uncharacteristically, a few times, to assert its views on critical matters of self-interest. In all, the involvement of AMCON in aviation has come under serious scrutiny.

“As far as information in the public domain goes, Aero Contractors is as good as gone-under. As for Arik Air, though not yet in the public domain, insiders know that its demise is only a matter of time, if current indices are anything to go by. And it seems evident that AMCON is in a self-induced state of abject mental lethargy to engineer any rebounds. This leaves the airlines in seeming derelict and forsaken conditions.

But, behind the facade of insolvency foisted on the two Airlines, and at the backstage of the pronounced going down of Aero Contractors in particular, it has been realized lies a deep brooding sea of hidden forces steeped in a hidden agenda”.

Ocheme pointed out that: “A recent report stated emphatically, albeit erroneously, that the airline has already gone under, impressing that its state of insolvency was irredeemable. The report quoted the airline’s CEO as saying that Aero’s airplanes have become too old to fly and are being grounded as such. He also alluded to the Airline’s heavily reduced fleet, as well as the debt overhang. The report painted an indeed sorry and forlorn state of the Airline.

“But, as far as we insiders can decipher, both the report and the CEO’s assertions are thoroughly economical with the truth and bereft of facts and truth. For example, the CEO’s assertion that Aero’s planes are too old to fly are completely false, even if aided by internal misinformation. The fact as we know it is that Aero operates the B737 Classic generation, the oldest of which just clocked 30years. This class of aircraft are able to operate up to 85,000 cycles, or 100,000 flight hours as approved by the Manufacturer, Boeing. None of these aircraft in Aero’s fleet has operated up to half of the approved figures. We stand to be proved wrong. While it is true that older aircraft do have higher maintenance costs, it must be borne in mind that the Airline owns an approved Maintenance & Repair Organisation (MRO) with elite Engineers in its fold. Till date, there is no report from the MRO, or the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) that any aircraft operated by Aero is too old to be maintained, or to fly. Or that there exist any shortfalls in Aero’s maintenance culture. On the contrary, Aero’s maintenance culture is rated among the very best. Therefore, this high flying lie of too old aircraft in Aero clearly bears ulterior motive”.

According to him: “The report in question failed to countenance the fact that Aero does have an MRO that maintains and carries out up to 1D Check on own and third party carriers. The MRO is currently on the threshold of becoming a major player in the industry. As a matter of fact, the Airline, Aero, just granted the MRO autonomy to operate as a quasi-subsidiary, being part of its unbundling plan. The MRO does have very bright prospects no doubt if properly managed and funded.

The report also failed to countenance the fact that Aero does operate a rotary wing which if granted lease of life has expansive capacity to prosper through contracts with oil companies and for charter operations of which she was previously the leading firm in Nigeria. This too has just become a separate business unit, showing its viability.

More still, the report was silent on the fact of the existence of an approved Aviation Training Organisation (ATO) under Aero with unlimited prospects, and which could decide to even rival the Nigerian College of aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria. It is also now a separate business unit, to underscore its potential.

“To discountenance all of the above prospects and say the Airline is gone is to us utterly absurd, to say the least. We therefore, see the report under reference, and the claims made by the CEO in the report, to be part of an orchestration to unjustifiably compel the Airline out of existence for some ulterior motive by some hidden forces.

The same forces as above engineered the phony lease contract with House of 5A’s by which Aero was given only three seats in a 180-seater Airbus at a fixed price of N35,000 per seat. Whereas the contract was for the purpose of expanding the airline’s network, the leased aircraft somehow supplanted all Aero aircraft on its juicy routes, pushing Aero aircraft to fringe routes with limited passenger intakes. For the period that the lease lasted, the entire Aero Contractors was essentially working for House of 5A’s, as the lessor was making more money than the Airline itself. No wonder the Airline ran itself into deep financial crisis and began to owe salaries unprecedentedly. But for the intervention of the unions which threatened to direct workers to withdraw services to the leased aircraft, Aero would still have been under the bondage of the House of 5A’s contract. So, who arranged such a murky lease? And was it a deliberate ploy to bring the Airline down?”.

He pointed out that : “The question begging for answers is who are those so eager to see Aero gone? And why? On this score, we note, and question the rationale of seconding Mr. Charles Johnson-Arumeme from Arik Air to Aero as Commercial Manager. Mr. Johnson-Arumeme it was who drew up the schedule that granted Aero’s juicy routes to House of 5A’s. The same Mr. Johnson-Arumeme has overseen the bastardization of the Aero online sales portal as to deliberately render it thoroughly defective. We observe that the sales portal would show seats not available when only about 30 passengers would have booked by then. This is in addition to exceedingly poor schedule with bad timings just to discourage prospective passengers”.

He observed that all these acts are clear cases of self-sabotage which is baffling as and exasperating.

He queried, “Is Mr. Charles Johnson-Arumemi a face of the hidden forces working to kill Aero? Why is he working in Aero, but receiving salary from Arik?

That is not all. In recent times, we have witnessed sinister attempts to provoke a reaction from the workforce or the Unions to withdraw services which would provide the basis for the company to be shutdown. Salaries are being owed for upwards of two months. Conditions of Service have remained unilaterally suspended. Even last week, after the CEO fouled the industrial atmosphere with his shutting down press goof, he convened a staff town hall meeting with the plan to provoke an unrest, knowing that workers have become restive. But, seeing through the plan, workers boycotted the meeting. Fortunately so far, in all these, the Unions and workers have refused the bait. We are aware that this has left the evil planners frustrated.

It would appear that the hidden forces are hell bent on forcing a shutdown of aero Contractors. Should they succeed, over 700 direct aviation jobs will go down the drain. A very solid aviation brand will become history. Nigeria’s flourish- and-flounder phenomenon in the aviation industry will once again come to the fore. And the prospect of a growing aviation industry in Nigeria will receive a major setback. This would be unfortunate indeed”.

Ocheme explained further that: “Arik Air (In Receivership)
We would have been silent on Arik Air for now, but for the fact that the House of 5A’s lease arrangement that was chased out of Aero has found its way into Arik Air. Disturbingly, there is evidence of case of collusion between the management of Aero and Arik Air. As we understand, the new lease arrangement was to come into operation last Friday, but got shelved.

Though we are yet to be furnished with Arik’s share of the spoils under this arranged contraption called a lease, we can say authoritatively that, like in Aero, the House of 5A’s aircraft have been gifted Arik’s juicy routes of Lagos/Abuja/Lagos, Abuja/Port Harcourt/Abuja, and Abuja/Kano/Abuja based on the released schedule. And as sure as night comes after day, Arik will surely soon run into financial bad weather as to be unable to pay salaries. And the same good-bye-Arik dinge will begin to fill the air. As stated earlier, it would seem only the death of these two Airlines will appease these blood-sucking gods”.

We consider this to be mischief beyond bounds, and a joke taken too far. Surely, we will not co-habit with this toxic agenda. Therefore, we

He said the Unions shall immediately direct all Arik workers to withdraw all services from this aircraft if, and when, it comes to their knowledge that indeed the same level of toxicity as in the case of Aero also applies in thevcase in Arik.

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