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Unions in tango over NG Eagle airline, Arik’s fate

By Wole Oyebade
30 September 2021   |   4:09 am
The move by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to birth a new airline, NG Eagle, from the assets of Arik Air has stirred a controversy among various aviation unions.

Another Arik’s aircraft change livery in Ethiopia
The move by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to birth a new airline, NG Eagle, from the assets of Arik Air has stirred a controversy among various aviation unions.

While a faction of the unions, which has the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and the National Union of Pensioners (NUP), warned the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) against granting the Air Operating Certificate (AOC) to the new airlines, the other divide that has the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association (ATSSSAN), National Association of Nigeria Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) and the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), faulted the stance.

On Tuesday, The Guardian found another Arik Air’s Boeing 737 aircraft being repainted into NG Eagle at the Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In April, two aircraft erstwhile operated by Arik, were rebranded in the colours of NG Eagle and parked at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos, ahead of take-off of operations.

Recall that AMCON, a special purpose vehicle of the Federal Government for the recovery of debts, took over Arik Air in February 2017. The rationale was to save the airline from imminent collapse, citing gross mismanagement by the owners and debt in excess of N300 billion-plus.

About five years down the line, it was learnt that the airline remains a hard sell, given the level of rot, debt and hard-to-recover liquidity pumped in to keep it on life support.

Perhaps throwing a weight behind the asset-stripping, NUATE, NAAPE and ATSSSAN in Arik, have warned ANAP and NUP to stay away from the affairs of Arik Air and NG Eagle or “face the consequences of their actions.”

The trio said issues of importance to them presently are the painful circumstances that caused their colleagues to proceed on leave without pay and how to achieve transition from employees of Arik Air to NG Eagle Airlines without loss of their service years.

In a joint statement signed by the branch Chairman and Secretary of NUATE, Ogulesi Afeez and Okoloj David; and their counterparts in NAAPE, Kelechi Ifejika and Numoliya Bethen, they urged ANAP and NUP not to interfere in Arik’s Air and NG Eagle Airlines matter.

And should they fail to heed the warning and attempt to cause any disorder in airlines, “we assure them that they will have the workers of both Arik Air and NG Eagle Airlines to contend with. We are absolutely able to defend ourselves as the law grants us to do.”

ANAP and NUP had called on the NCAA to deny NG Eagle Air Operators Certificate (AOC) based on the debt Arik Air owes the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).

NUATE, NAAPE and ATSSSAN, however, said there is no correlation between the legacy debt and the issuance of AOC by the regulatory body.

The unions described the call on AOC denial as not only provocative also “irresponsible for ANAP and NUP to make such a call bearing in mind that the two unions in question do not have members in both Arik Air and NG Eagle.”

“ANAP and NUP are unknown in Arik and NG Eagle. Having no membership in the two airlines, they have no stake whatsoever, and as such have neither legal nor moral right over the affairs of the two airlines. One, therefore, wonders in whose interest ANAP and NUP are acting.”

General Secretary of NUATE, Abba Ocheme, said that aviation unions would not tolerate a situation where some unions would pitch unions against each other.

Ocheme also said that NUATE would not allow a situation where workers would fight one another instead of pursuing a common goal.

He said the primary focus should be the welfare and well-being of workers, adding that Arik’s existence is threatened and no one can predict the shape it will take.

“We will support Arik Air and leave the issue of debt to the one owing and the one being owed. Presently, AMCON is not owing anybody ”

The Director-General of NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu, had recently said that NG Eagle was among the impending new airlines currently undergoing AOC acquisition.