By the time Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria AMCON took over the management of Aero Contractors in early 2016, the hitherto foremost airline was at its nadir. There was no money to run the airline; the aircraft in its fleet were largely moribund and in dire need for maintenance. Besides, the labour unions were restive because it looked inevitable that workers in the company would lose their jobs.
This was a follow up to the financial hiccups suffered by the airline, when it became insolvent, which prompted AMCON to take it over, absorbed its debts and faced the mandate to rejuvenate it.
That was the somber mood at the time and even after AMCON took over, things didnâ€™t start looking up immediately. There was even a time labour alleged that the Corporation was exacerbating the problem of Aero. But the situation of the airline today has confirmed what the spokesman of AMCON, Mr. Jude Nwauzor said, that during that period, the Corporation was gauging the best way to manage the airline out of disaster.
Today the airline has been able to rebuild its Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility and it has upgraded it to the level that it can maintain Boeing B737 aircraft to C-check level, the first time in Nigeria. Aero, which has already started the maintenance of its Boeing aircraft and has received offers from other airlines to conduct C-check on their aircraft, is targeting that by December it would have five aircraft in its fleet and it would add more routes to its operations, the first effort to regain its old glory as one of the three major airlines in Nigeria.
THISDAY spoke with the image maker of AMCON, Nwauzor on Tuesday, who said that the Corporationâ€™s major objective is to revive ailing companies and put them back to profitability, absorbing their debts and cushioning their challenges.
He said that AMCON set out its objective on how to revive Aero Contractors, noting that the effort had paid off. He admitted that AMCON has no expertise in airline management or in aviation, so it has to scout for experts who would effectively manage the airline.
â€œWe have always known what we wanted to do in the airline because the issue was mismanagement of debts, which led to our take over. When we took over it was obvious that Nigerians donâ€™t know us as experts in aviation and that is why my Managing Director, Mr. Ahmed Kuru, went out to look for the best hands in the industry. We had to get those who are experts in that industry to manage that business. That is what happened in the case of Aero with the appointment of Captain Ado Sanusi who we all know in the industry as one of the best and the place was handed over to him and his jobs were spelt out for him,â€ Nwauzor said.
He said that what Captain Sanusi has done showed he clearly understood the mandate given to him by AMCON and that mandate was not to allow the airline to go under, to reposition it for â€œbetter yieldâ€ and if possible get investors to put their money in the company.
THISDAY learnt that since the airline upgraded its maintenance facility to conduct C-check on Boeing B737 classics, investors are developing interest in the airline.
Nwauzor noted that Aero has become a beautiful bride and that when Captain Sanusi took over he faced some challenges before he was able to put things in proper perspective. One of the challenges was to reduce the workforce of the company, which was obviously over bloated. Aero CEO and labour reached rapport and some of the workers were laid off.
â€œCaptain Ado Sanusi also experienced challenges at the beginning when he took over. Those initial delays you noticed which seemed as if we were hesitant to move was because we needed to do a proper evaluation of the place so that we would understand what went wrong and what we needed to apply to make the place come up and running again. In such decision to revitalise the company, some people will have to feel the pain,â€ Nwauzor explained.
On the maintenance facility, which has been primed to become a huge source of revenue for Aero, the AMCON spokesman said the airline has been conducting aircraft maintenance for years but Sanusi upgraded to the level that it would conduct C-check on Boeing classics.
â€œWhen you appoint a man with ideas he will spin things around. Those things have been there underutilised and for us at AMCON and for Sanusi as a professional, we saw it as money lying in waste. The MRO is a money spinner that was unexplored for years. I will explain it like a diamond that was covered in dust. So all he did was to pull it out, dust it off and repositioned it as money spinner,â€ Nwauzor said.
On AMCONâ€™s future with the airline he said that the role of AMCON in any business is to make sure that the business did not die.
â€œSo our first priority is to make sure that Aero grows from strength to strength. You know AMCON has a lifespan. We are hoping that even after our sunset, Aero would have moved on to acquire 50 to 60 aircraft. This is because we want Aero as the oldest airline in Nigeria to be a dominant player in Nigeria, Africa and around the world,â€ he stressed.