NG Eagle revs up for launch, acquires another Arik Air asset
Drumbeats of disenchantment notwithstanding, NG Eagle, a new airline, is warming up to launch operations, having inched closer to acquiring an Air Operating Certificate (AOC).
The new local carrier is emerging from the “ashes” of distressed Arik Air, and has acquired at least three of its Boeing 737 airplanes. The third of these was last week sighted at Ethiopian Airline’s Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, awaiting rebranding into NG Eagle fleet.
Recall that the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (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 N300b-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. As an alternative, the Federal Government, through AMCON, decided on a new carrier, NG Eagle, from some viable asset of Arik Air, and may become the new national carrier.
As at April, two aircraft erstwhile operated by Arik, had been rebranded in the colours of NG Eagle and parked at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos, while officials walk the ropes of AOC at the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Sources at the NCAA confirmed that the AOC was already at the last phase and should get approval this October.
In Ethiopia, it was said that the Boeing 737 recently underwent C-check, set for rebranding and should return to Nigeria in about two weeks.
However, the development has thrown various aviation unions against one another. While a faction of the unions, which has the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and the National Union of Pensioners (NUP) has warned NCAA against granting the 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), has faulted the stance.
Throwing its weight behind the asset-stripping, NUATE, NAAPE and ATSSSAN associations in Arik, have warned ANAP and NUP to steer clear of the affairs of Arik Air and NG Eagle or “face 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 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 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 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 as not only provocative, but 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 two airlines’ affair. 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 NUATE would not allow a situation where workers would be fighting one another, instead of pursuing a common goal.
He said the primary focus should be the welfare and well-being of workers, and 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,” he said.