MD, Arik Air, Chris Ndulue
Chinedu Eze and Senator Iroegbu
Nigeria’s biggest airline Arik Air has announced that it would resume flight operations today after suspending services for three days.
On Thursday aviation workers under the aegis of Air Transport Service Senior Staff Association (ATSSSAN) and the National Union of Air transport Employees (NUATE) had disrupted the airline’s domestic services over the debt it owes to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), prompting its management to suspend operations.
After a meeting with the Federal Government that was presided by the Secretary to the Federal Government Senator Anyim Pius Anyim in Abuja yesterday, the Managing Director /Vice President of Arik Air Chris Ndulue told newsmen in Lagos that the issue was amicably resolved as the aviation agencies assured that they would rein in the unions, which suspended their action on Friday, while the airline would resume operations.
“We have been able to resolve all the issues and we are happy to announce we are resuming operations tomorrow (today),” Ndulue said.
He also disclosed that another meeting was scheduled between the airline and the Federal Government and this would take place in the next two weeks to conclude the discussion that was started yesterday.
Ndulue said that there was no discussion on the payment of the debts the airline owe FAAN, which is disputably put at N7.07 billion by the agency.
“We did not discuss any payment plan. It was agreed that there was no real problem between the airline and FAAN.
We are happy to put what happened behind us. The agencies have pledged to control their workers. The meeting was all about reconciliation.
"What happened is part of the sacrifices we have to make for pioneering this kind of operation.
"It stunts growth but we know that to get where we are going takes time and endurance. We suffered disruption of our operations; we suffered losses.
On Friday during a press conference, the Managing Director of FAAN, George Uriesi, said that the agency and Arik Air had been talking on the payment of the debts and the talks had reached advanced stage before the unions disrupted that discussion by their action.
He noted, however, that the action of the workers has brought the debt issue to the fore and to the public knowledge.
“This is a little bit of distraction in the sense that we now have to deal with the crisis whereas we were progressing along a path towards a resolution as management.”
Meanwhile, Arik Air has denied ever accusing the Minister of Aviation, Prince Stella Oduah, of requesting for five per cent stake in the airline.
Ndulue said that the airline never said any such thing and that there was nothing like that in the address he read to the media on Thursday.
“When I addressed you I read from a paper which contained all that I said. Go and read that document again and see whether there is anything like that there,” Ndule challenged journalists.
Defending the debt owed by the airline, which made the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) give a directive that banks should no longer extend credit facility to the airline and others, the Arik Air Managing Director said that there was no way an airline could have about 23 new generation aircrafts operating many routes without being indebted, adding that shortlisting the airline among many other companies and individuals that should not be given loans by the banks might be an oversight by CBN.
The airline is reported to owe N85. 482 billion.