Posted by News Express | 20 September 2012 | 4,127 times
Nigeria’s biggest airline, Arik Air, has leveled sundry grave allegations against the Ministry of Aviation and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), culminating in the company’s suspension of domestic operations effective from today. The airlines management in a statement by Chris Ndulue, the Managing Director, made available to News Express, said:
“Due to persistent hostility of the Ministry of Aviation and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), which has culminated in the use of FAAN staff to stop Arik Air operations and lock in checked-in passengers in Lagos this morning, Arik Air has no option than to suspend all domestic operations until further notice. This issue borders on personal interests and not payment of bills; since FAAN has been collecting their charges in advance since 18 months now. Arik Air regrets the inconveniences this disruption by FAAN would cause our guests.
“Trouble started for Arik due to the airline’s inability to meet the personal demands of certain influential person(s) in the industry. Before now, there have been several attempts and threats to disrupt our operations and sell the usual impression that Arik Air is owing the agencies. After these attempts failed, today, they resorted to using some FAAN staff. We are aware that some knowledgeable staff refused to join this illegal and unwarranted action. They locked the boarding gate and prevented passengers from getting to the aircraft and were making false announcement of unimaginable sums of money they claimed Arik owed. Obviously, from their records no other airline owes, anything.
“This is only a calculated attempt to punish the airline and tarnish its image. They are witnesses to the reputation of Arik Air as a young and upwardly mobile airline. They saw it in their road shows and many visits to airlines and aircraft manufacturers. Ordinarily, they should be happy, but they are not.
“For the records, Arik Air does not owe FAAN as is being alleged by the Agency. We want to state that FAAN has been collecting its charges over the last 18 months when it introduced the pay-as-you-go regime. In this year alone, we have paid over N2bn to FAAN (breakdown by month and types is attached). 35% of total airline revenues in Nigeria, are paid back to government agencies.
“Several figures are currently being bandied about by FAAN as Arik Air’s indebtedness to the agency. The amount the agency is claiming as Arik Air’s debt is fictitious and baseless.
“We have an outstanding balance of N1.6bn from the period before FAAN/Ministry of Aviation started “Pay-As-You-Go” (payment in advance). Other airlines also have various figures. In January 2011, the former Minister of Aviation directed that such outstanding be cleared within 30 months. We have been paying down on the amount installments of N100million per month – we will continue to do so.
“It is pertinent to note that the Managing Director of FAAN, Mr. George Uriesi, has failed to attend one meeting with us on this issue, despite several attempts by my Chairman and I.
“We are appalled at the amount of energy and resources being dissipated in trying to woo foreigners to invest in Nigeria, while the same time trying to pull down the largest Nigerian, and West African airline, just for purely personal gains. For this purpose, a lot of decisions have been taken on Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA), which are not in the interest of the Nigerian aviation industry. The Ministry should not be in competition, or in concerted efforts with its agencies to weaken domestic airlines. No amount of personal benefits justifies that.
“We must thank the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and the House of Representatives (especially the Committee on Aviation) for standing firm and supporting the course of national development.
“We look forward, and appeal to the Federal Government, for urgent intervention to resolve all the issues with FAAN and the Federal Ministry of Aviation, to enable us fully return to our business.”
*Photo: Arik Air MD, Chris Ndulue.
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