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Confusion at Aero Contractors as AMCON backpedals on NG Eagle’s plans

By Wole Oyebade
14 October 2022   |   5:09 am
Plans by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to float a new airline, NG Eagle, might have been ditched following the reassignment of Capt. Ado Sanusi to Aero Contractors.

Aero Contractors airline. Photo:Aero

Plans by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to float a new airline, NG Eagle, might have been ditched following the reassignment of Capt. Ado Sanusi to Aero Contractors.

Sanusi, the former boss of Aero Contractors, was to resume as Managing Director of NG Eagle until the National Assembly meddled with the controversial airline and aborted its take off.

Sanusi’s comeback at Aero Contractors this week, however, threw the distressed airline into fresh confusion, eliciting protests by some union members.

AMCON, in a statement, yesterday, said due to the lingering issue connected with securing the Airline Operator Certificate (AOC) of NG Eagle and failure of the airline to take off, AMCON “decided to reassign Capt. Sanusi back to Aero.”

Aero Contractors has been in receivership under AMCON since 2016 and is undergoing restructuring with expectation of returning to scheduled services in the very near future.

Sanusi, on resumption, said he was pleased to return to Aero Contractors to continue the job of repositioning the airline.

“I thank Capt. Mahmood for the wonderful job he has done in holding the fort. A lot needs to be done to make the airline stronger, to be able to face future challenges. I look forward to the support of the staff and management of the airline, including other stakeholders, to make the airline great, once again,” Sanusi said.

But a section of National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) have both petitioned and also threatened Sanusi not to resume at Aero.

The Guardian learnt that aggrieved pilots and engineers of the airline were opposed to Sanusi’s return, “as they will not be pleased with his management.”

The airline has been in distress in the last two months, forcing it to shut down operations. But the development is more significant for NG Eagles and its proposed operations.

Recall that AMCON, the special debt recovery vehicle of the Federal Government, took over Arik Air in February 2017, as part of measures to save the airline from “imminent collapse.”

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

As an alternative, the Federal Government, through AMCON, decided on a new carrier, NG Eagle, from some viable assets of Arik Air. At least three Boeing 737 airplanes that once belonged to Arik have been stripped and rebranded into NG Eagle’s livery.

The take-off plan, however, ran into turbulence when the National Assembly, in February 2022, said the new start-up airline would not see the light of day until Arik Air offsets outstanding debt to government agencies worth N10.8 billion.

The Joint House Committees on Aviation had in 2021 ordered NCAA not to release AOC to NG Eagle till grey issues of staff welfare were resolved at Arik Air.

Findings by The Guardian showed that the new airline did submit a bid for AOC and Air Transport Licence on December 5, 2019, and scaled through the hurdles, with manuals checked, flight tests conducted and simulations successfully carried out by NCAA.

However, an unsigned AOC certificate with number: NGE/AOC/09-21/001, dated September 21, 2021, was issued to the airline and seen by The Guardian recently.

The airline was granted passenger, cargo, scheduled and charter flight operations, and the AOC was to expire on September 20, 2023.

In the last seven month of inactivity, The Guardian learnt that the aborted airline has incurred an estimated loss of $53 million (N22.06 billion) in national resources.

The break down showed $1.66 million spent on staff salaries; $934,611 on insuring unused aircraft; $757,954 on engine lease and shipment; $525,386 on procurement; $298,605 on contracted services, and $121,829 on information technology.

Other incurred costs are: $113,699 on logistics; $25,588 on rent; $16,583 on repair and renovation of offices; $36,000 on preservation maintenance; $757,620 on contracted engineering personnel; $2.4 million on heavy maintenance and $45.75 million in revenue losses as at March 2022.