•AMCON to continue managing Arik Air under new executive
• Qatar selected as core investor
Former Managing Director of Virgin Nigeria Airways, Captain Dapo Olumide has been named interim Managing Director of the new national carrier, Nigeria Air by the federal government.
This is coming as the federal government has decided that the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) would continue to operate Arik Air as receiver-manager but a new set of officials may be appointed to preside over the affairs of the airline.
The Director of Media, Ministry of Aviation, Dr. James Odaudu confirmed the appointment of Olumide, who is expected to carry out the processes and procedures for the registration of the new airline, including securing the Air Operator Certificate (AOC) from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the recruitment of personnel, acquisition of offices and acquisition and choice of aircraft for the airline’s operations.
With the appointment of interim Managing Director and issuance of Request for Proposal (RFP) for the establishment of the national carrier advertised in the Economist of London and local newspapers, the Ministry of Aviation said it has started a firm process to establish a national carrier and has projected that by October this year, the airline may mark its inaugural flight.
There are indications that Qatar Airways may become the core investor of the national carrier.
The Middle East carrier was chosen from among three international carriers, including Ethiopia Airlines, which might be consulted for the establishment of Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility and Turkish Airlines.
Industry consultant and CEO of BeluJane Konsult, Chris Aligbe who is involved in the drive for the national carrier, told THISDAY that the choice of Qatar Airways was because it guarantees a better future for the new national airlines, disclosing that the core investor could place its aircraft fleet at the disposal of the new carrier for leasing and this would make it easy for Nigeria Air to obtain its AOC without long process because the core investor is already an operating airline.
Aligbe also said because everything would be in place for the airline to take off, it was expected that the regulatory authority would give waiver and circumvent the long procedures for obtaining of AOC.
“Because the core investor has everything that may be required in terms of technical requirements, personnel, and capacity, some of the processes of AOC could be short circulated.
“The airline is expected to start operation after the second quarter and it will not take long before it will go international and passengers can book to go to anywhere in the world, China, UK, US because the core investor has developed these routes. This is one of the gains of involving the legacy carrier, Qatar Airways,” Alighe said.
The new national carrier is being midwifed by Aviation Roadmap Implementation Committee, headed by the erudite Kabir Mohammed, but the committee decided to keep its plans under wraps until the work is completed.
“We will not make noise about our plan and what we are doing until the work is completed. So Nigerians will judge us by the result of our work,” an inside source said.
But an official from the Ministry of Aviation said that while all indications show that Qatar Airways may have been chosen as a core investor, none of those who bided as the core investor has officially been given green light by the federal government.
Meanwhile, there are strong indications that while AMCON would continue to manage Arik Air, the management team of the airline might be tinkered with. There could be changes in the management team.Sources in the Ministry of Aviation said that Arik Air was allegedly exposed to over N200 billion debts and that it was due to the debt that the federal government did not combine it with Aero to float a national carrier.
“That debt is huge. Arik Air Chairman wanted the government to offset or cancel the debt, but the government cannot do that. Instead, AMCON will continue to manage it and see whether it could generate revenues to offset the debts”, the official said.
Reacting to the allegation that he wanted the federal government to cancel the debts, the Founder of Arik Air, Sir Joseph Arumemi-Ikhide, told THISDAY that he had never said anything like that.
“We just requested from AMCON the details of what they have recouped since they started managing the airline. When they do that we would reconcile and know how much is left. They have to state what they have earned and how much of the debts they have recovered. If they do this we see how much we will pay, how much we need to have to restructure the company,” Arumemi said.
However, the Receiver Manager of Arik Air, Kamilu Omokide told THISDAY that nobody facilitated the aircraft leased by the operator and that the airline was fulfilling its obligation on its aircraft lease.
On whether there would be a change in the team managing the airline, he said he had not received any signal to that and if anything like that, stressing that if anything like that would happen he would not hear it from an outsider, considering his position in AMCON.
Omokide empahasised that Arik Air was being managed more efficiently now than when it was under the former management of the airline and that he has facts and documentation to attest to that, adding that for the airline to expand, it needs more capital.
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