The hope that Nigeria’s foremost airline, Aero Contractors may resume schedule commercial operations soon has been dashed as the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) and the management of the airline are yet to reach a compromise on how the airline could resume flight services.
Aero Contractors stopped schedule operation on September 1, 2016 due to lack of funds and equipment as most of its aircraft were either grounded due to lack of maintenance or were at the maintenance facility for checks.
Although the Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika had assured the over 1, 300 workers of the airline that government would resolve the issues, but THISDAY has learnt that government may not have any plan to provide the needed funding for the airline to continue operation.
A management source told THISDAY on Wednesday that since AMCON fully took over the airline there was an understanding between the management and the corporation that the later would inject funds into the airline.
But AMCON has given a stringent condition that the management of the airline must lay off about 70 per cent of the workers because the workforce is over bloated now that the airline is operating fewer aircraft.
The initial plan which AMCON agreed to was that it would empower the airline to even acquire more aircraft, targeting 16 aircraft in its fleet. However, currently the airline has about 10 aircraft and almost all of them are aircraft on ground (AOG).
THISDAY learnt that the hope of the management was dashed when AMCON refused to provide the promised funds.
“Without the funds, the management cannot do anything, but AMCON is insisting that it cannot provide funds when the personnel available was far much more than the operational aircraft and insisted the airline management must lay off workers,” a source said.
The official disclosed that AMCON had met with Minister of Labour and Productivity along with the Minister of State, Aviation, adding that what Aero needs is operational funds and considering the economic situation in the country, government may not be able to provide the needed funds.
Although the official was very clear but there are indications that if the Aero management lays off substantial number of workers, AMCON would make money available so that the company would bring back three of its aircraft that were ferried overseas for maintenance.
“What AMCON cannot assent to is for Aero to operate with the full number of staff. It must downsize so that the number of workers would be equal to the number of aircraft available and a management source seem to have agreed to this arrangement but will the workers allow it to happen? AMCON invested hugely in Aero. We cannot say let us see what we can do, which is the Nigerian parlance to just go on without effectively planning but we have already exhausted our self. People like to patch up things but we do not want to do that. It is simple; Aero cannot fly because there are no funds. Aero has to reduce its staff. There was a time Aero had 17 aircraft but now the airline fleet has reduced, so it cannot fly with that kind of overhead. Our Managing Director will not budge until the right thing is done,” the AMCON official told THISDAY.
Aero management source told THISDAY, “My understanding was that AMCON was going to provide money. They are the owners of the company. There is nothing we have done without their consent. It was agreed that some of the workers would be laid off and as the airline bring in more aircraft they would be reabsorbed.”
THISDAY also learnt that Aero plans to lay off workers temporarily and engage them as later it acquires more aircraft. But indications show that the workers would have none of that, insisting that the airline must not sack its workforce, even in the face of the challenges.
THISDAY spoke with senior official of AMCON who noted that the Minister made a promise to the workers that they won’t lose their jobs even before he met with AMCON.