Minister Wades into AMCON, Aero Contractors Crisis, Pledges to Revive Ailing Airlines

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Dele Ogbodo in Abuja

The Minister of State for Aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika, on Thursday said government was taking drastic measures aimed at resolving the lingering crisis that resulted in the take over of Aero Contractors airlines by the Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON).

Sirika admitted that AMCON was facing challenges in reviving the airline for profitability because, as he said, they are not trained aviators, and therefore do not have the competence to hire the labour and expertise required to turnaround Aero as an airline operating concern.

The minister spoke when he granted and members of the Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSAN) led by Mr. Benjamin Okewu, in Abuja audience to, saying government has initiated action towards salvaging the airline and how AMCON will hand over the firm for operations.

Though Arik is also being confronted with indebtedness to agencies in the ministry, the minister said, Aero and Arik will not go down, adding, operating an airline is about viability and sustainance.
“We cannot fold our arms and see the death of our local airlines. The environment will be made more conducive for them to operate efficiently,” he said.

However, he said a committee had been set up to look into the debt Arik is owning agencies, adding that the debt being owed parastatals is of serious concern to government.
He added that NAMA and NCAA are cost recovering establishment which need some funds to operate their facilities to guarantee safety in the industry.

The minister said while Arik management was contesting the debt being owed agencies, he charged them to make sure that all debts owed are recovered into government coffers.
On the retirees of the defunct Nigeria Airways who are yet to get their retirement benefits, Sirika said an all stakeholders’ meeting to resolve the crisis which has lingered for long, will convened soon.

The minister said arrangement had been concluded to overhaul all the agencies within the ministry. He said the situationhe where an agency will have over 40 general managers with high overhead was uncalled for.

He said: “A situation where 2006 graduate is made a GM is a misnomer and therefore must be corrected with the coming realignment of all the parastatals in the ministry, adding that there must be correct career progression in the service.”

While allaying fears of staffers in the restructuring, he said concession of airports would not result in loss of jobs, adding it is being done for efficiency, safety and security.
The minister said indicted senior officers in the various agencies would face the music in the forthcoming reorganisation.

He added that a transaction will soon commence work on the national carrier, which will be private driven, adding: “Our routes are good, we need to do something to protect the Nigerian consumers and create jobs for the young ones.

In a remark, Okewu, urged the minister to correct all the anomalies and victimisation of union members in the ministry, adding, “The union wants to look into the AMCON, Aero crisis and the debt level of Arik which is affecting operations in the various agencies.”