Two aviation unions have urged the National Assembly and the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, to urgently avert circumstances that may lead to the imminent collapse of Arik and Aero Contractors.
The unions are the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN).
The General Secretary, NUATE, Mr Ocheme Aba, made the call during a news conference with aviation correspondents in Lagos on Monday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Aero Contractors and Arik Air are both under the receivership of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).
Aba pleaded with Sirika and the National Assembly to use their good offices to save the workers of the two airlines and their families, as well as the aviation industry from imminent disaster.
“Specifically, we call for a probe of the circumstances surrounding the rumoured sales of the airlines to the promoters of 5A’s after the airlines must have been forced to the ground by an artificially created financial crumbling.
“We also call for strong and deeply reflective interface among the Ministry of Aviation, AMCON and the legacy shareholders of Aero Contractors and Arik Air for the purpose of knocking out a deal that could truly rejuvenate the airlines.
“We call for a complete stoppage of further attempts to truncate genuine revamping efforts at keeping these airlines on the part of recovery.
“Specifically, we call for a halt of further attempts through House of 5A’s to force any phony lease contracts down the throat of Aero Contractors and Arik Air,” he said.
Aba urged AMCON not to allow any form of weariness stand in the efforts to turnaround the fortunes of the two airlines.
“This requires, though, that all hands must be on deck and working harmoniously. To this effort, we pledge our cooperation and collaboration,” he said.
Aba urged AMCON to replace the Receiver Manager of Aero Contractors.
He alleged that the assignment was obviously well outside his competence, as clearly marked by his abdication of his role.
The NUATE scribe alleged that it appeared that hidden forces were hell bent on forcing the shutdown of Aero Contractors and Arik Air.
He disclosed that over 700 direct aviation jobs would be lost if they succeed.
Aba said the unions would have been silent on Arik Air for now, but for the fact that the House of 5A’s lease arrangement that was chased out of Aero had found its way into Arik Air.
He said that it was crystal clear that some forces were toying with Aero Contractors and Arik Air.
According to him, this will translate to toying with the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Nigerian citizens as well as the country’s aviation ecosystem.
Aba accused the Aero Contractors of planning to reduce 40 per cent of its staff strength without talking of redundancy even as the company was yet to complete redundancy payment of those it asked to stay home since 2016.
He said the unions would direct all Arik workers to withdraw all services from this aircraft if, and when, it comes to their knowledge that indeed the same level of toxicity of Aero also applies in this case in Arik.
Reacting to the issues, the Managing Director of Aero Contractors, Capt. Abdullahi Mahmood, described the unions allegations as unfounded.
Mahmood said that it was pure mischief that the unions kept quite when things were rosy but came out with allegations and threats when challenges occurred.
“All the allegations about the Managing Director of House of 5A’s and Charles Arumemi Johnson, are unfounded. Charles is a very competent staff of Arik Air owned by AMCON, which equally owns Aero Contractors.
“Therefore, there is no conflict of interest. He is instrumental to the recently launched Aero portal which has given the website a face lift and more user friendly compared to the previous website.
“On the House of 5A’s, every partnership was done with the aim of improving the revenue of the airline, particularly in relation to our unserviceable equipment and ensuring standard customer service.
“The question is what was our revenue before, during and after the exit of House of 5As? They should please respond.
“We are conscious of the challenges we are facing and have been prudent with our expenses, and doing our best to take care of staff welfare,” Mahmood said.
He urged the staff and the unions to desist support the company to overcome its challenges.
Mahmood noted that the management decided to create the four Strategic Business Units (SBUs): Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO), Aviation Training Organisation (ATO), Airline Operation and Rotary Wing, to enhance efficiency and profitability.
The managing director said whatever management decisions were taken were usually done with the engagement of the unions.
He said it recognised the huge and massive potential of Aero Contractors and was taking strategic steps to exploit them for the benefits of all stakeholders.