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National carrier: Stakeholders oppose Arik/Aero merger

National carrier: Stakeholders oppose Arik/Aero mergerStakeholders in the aviation industry have asked the Federal Government to ignore the proposal to merge Arik Air and Aero to form a national carrier.

Aviation consultant, Chris Aligbe, said the advice by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria to merge the two airlines under its receivership, had elicited a flurry of comments and interventions by well-meaning industry analysts and stakeholders; with some supporting AMCON’s position and others opposing it.

He said the decision would further complicate the Nigeria Air project as it would pitch the original owners of the airlines against the Federal Government and end in legal battle.

According to him, the idea of merging two airlines which the proponents have acknowledged are not doing well to form a new national carrier is fraught with challenges that will make the product a disaster abinitio.

He said, “A healthy and virile establishment cannot be founded on the back of unhealthy and struggling entities; no sensible investor will invest in such establishment.

“Where no investors come, such a national carrier will exist on 100 per cent government equity, just like the liquidated Nigeria Airways.”

Aligbe, who was reacting to a recent proposal by the Chief Executive Officer of AMCON, Ahmed Kuru, to the National Assembly to merge Arik and Aero and use them to float a national carrier rather than starting a brand new one, stated that before now, many stakeholders were not convinced of the need for a new national carrier.

“But stark realities of our national losses in terms of humongous capital flight of over $1.3bn annually on ticket sales alone by foreign airlines as well as the fact that countries like Uganda, Tanzania and Ghana, even Republic of Benin are set with the floatation of their national carriers with varying degrees of government equities have undermined the position of some stakeholders who hitherto argued that national carriers are now out of fashion,” he added.

Aviation security consultant, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (retd.), said the Federal Government should consider merging Arik and Aero only if their debts, liabilities and assets could be respectively estimated with a view to working out a plan for recovery.

He stated that government intervention funds and the liabilities to other creditors within and outside the country needed to be sorted out before any other consideration.

“The local and foreign debts on Arik cannot make it possible with the present fleet and operating routes,” he added.

Aligbe stated that the current status of both Arik and Aero would not make them fit for the national carrier project.

He said, “There are still a few who believe that Aero and Arik are airlines that belong to the government. It is not true. If they were, they would be under aviation not AMCON that has no statutory responsibility on aviation but rather on debt collection.

“Any attempt to move outside this statute will occasion international litigations that could be unresolved for many years. This is because both the original owners and creditors will head to court to challenge the Federal Government.”

He explained that airlines were much more complex to run than other businesses as they usually required in-dept study and understanding.

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