As NG Eagle Berths

Chinedu Eze
One of the new entrants to the domestic air travel market this year is the NG Eagle being floated by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON). The corporation has confirmed plans are on top gear to ensure that the airline comes on stream as soon as it obtains its Air Operator Certificate (AOC).

Since the report of the planned airline was made public, industry stakeholders and analysts have expressed their opinion about the new domestic carrier.

The new airline, which Captain Ado Sanusi is primed to be its managing director, may be an answer to AMCON’s dilemma about what to do with its assets in the aviation industry, including aircraft and operational facilities.

The airline, which has completed the process to begin demonstration flights, would soon deploy three aircraft for the audit and sources said it plans to take some of Arik Air’s Boeing B737-NG aircraft and would concentrate on domestic service for some time when it becomes operational.

But many industry observers are asking questions, which include, will the new airline take over Arik Air and Aero Contractors? Is AMCON discussing with Sir Joseph Arumemi-Ikhide the founder of Arik Air?
The source alleged that when AMCON took over the management of Arik Air in February, 2017, it did not continue with the plan of the previous management to rehabilitate the aircraft in the fleet, as some of them were due for tyre and landing gear change in addition to other maintenance work.

However, THISDAY learnt that while Aero’s maintenance facility is tempting, the new airline does not intend to take over the facility or the airline. Besides, the Ibrus were said to have acquired 40 per cent stake in Aero Contractors under AMCON and therefore are privy to the changes being made in the airline.

THISDAY also gathered that the reason why AMCON decided to establish a new airline was to have a platform that could be partnered with, sold or become a precursor to the establishment of a national carriers because Arik Air as it is cannot serve such purpose because of its huge debt profile and is highly vulnerable to litigation.

So with a new airline, AMCON may have a virgin ground to recover its debts, then sell the airline or use it to woo the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika who has already mapped out plans to establish a national carrier.
AMCON Head of Corporate Communications, Jude Nwauzor had expressed optimism over the suitability of Arik and Aero, saying that if AMCON intended to wind down Aero, it would not have appointed Captain Abdullaji Zubair Mahmood as replacement for Sanusi, stressing that rather, the cor¬poration intended to expand its investment in the nation’s aviation industry.

Nwauzor who had already confirmed the establishment of the new airline, did not make it clear what AMCON intends to do with the airline, as the government agency had said at different fora that it did not have the experience or technical know-how to run an airline.
Industry observers have posited that the hope the new airline has to survive is because Sanusi who already has a good record from the way he turned Aero around, would manage it.

Nwauzor also told THISDAY that AMCON has lofty plan for the new airline and would not likely rely on the fleet from Arik Air, as there are indications that the new AMCON act gave it immunity against litigation.
But industry analyst and the publicity secretary of Aviation Round Table (ART), Olu Ohunayo told THISDAY that AMCON might have taken a good decision to establish a new airline, but noted that for the corporation to succeed, it would have to carry the founder of the airlines along.

“I support AMCON’s plan to establish new carrier instead of these airlines (Aero and Arik) to continue to be run the way they are currently being run. They are not making revenue or recovering from their debts. It is better to do the needful and bite the bullet. It is better to move on. The owners of the airlines should be briefed properly and carried along in order to avoid unnecessary litigation.

“In moving on, they have come up with a new strategy in pulling out a new airline from the existing ones, which is beautiful. I just hope this will end the agitation of the Ministry to start its own national carrier because that will be a disaster. What I have seen now is that new airlines are coming up but the existing ones have refused to merge; so it is either they survive or die, as new ones come in. Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) have accepted that policy, NCAA, which has refused to use consolidation process, has also accepted that policy. Those that will live will live and I think I support the position of AMCON and I wish them well,” he said.

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