Aviation industry experts have cautioned against alleged plan by the federal government through Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to sell Aero Contractors and Arik Air to foreign airlines.
Informed sources at the Ministry of Transportation had hinted that the government approached Ethiopia Airlines and Turkish Airlines to buy Arik but they declined. Also last week the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun confirmed that investors were making enquiries about acquiring the two airlines.
But industry experts have expressed worries about the news of the plan takeover of these airlines by foreign concerns, querying if how this would benefit Nigeria and make the airlines operate profitable.
They argued that if foreign airlines acquire and absorb these airlines, Nigeria would lose because the workers would be relieved of their jobs and the airlines may even seize to exist as Nigerian operators.
Secretary of Aviation Round Table (ART), Group Captain John Ojikutu has criticised the move, saying that the decision to sell the airlines to European carriers is ill-advised.
â€œThe news going round is that there are some moves by AMCON to liquidate Arik airline and sell it to the Ethiopian airline. Sure AMCON has no good knowledge on how many things work in aviation, but must be getting some blind advice from some Nigerian interested parties. I am not against the selling of Arik or Aero to technical investors, what I, like any other Nigerian, should fight for is selling a reasonable percentage of the airlines assets to the public. Secondly, those who are contemplating the sales or cooperation with Ethiopian airline should go into history of such cooperation in the past between Nigeria Airways and KLM or the Nigeria Airways and South African Airways in the 90s and the one for establishing Virgin Nigeria between the government and Virgin Atlantic.
â€œIn the event that the liquidation and sale of these airlines to Ethiopia Airlines or European carriers is true, what would be the statutes of the airline if Nigerians are not participants? Would Ethiopian Airlines and Asky still retain their multiple destinations to all the five Nigerian airports if the airline is designated as the national carrier or flag carrier? We must find favourable answers to these questions or else AMCON and its advisers would blindfully sell our birth rights to a commercial competitor in the industry,â€ Ojikutu said.
Travel expert, Ikechi Uko said if selling the airlines would make them viable that would be good for Nigeria, but there is no certainty that after the sale the airlines would be allowed to operate as they are but if that would be the case because â€œif Turkish Airlines acquire the airline, it cannot bring Turkish people to run it; it will allow Nigerians to run the airline.â€