Senator Anietie Okon, former Vice President of Arik Air, has said a move by the Federal Government to hand over ownership of the airline to Ethiopian Airline will lead to massive loss of jobs for Nigerians in the aviation industry.
Okon was reacting to reports that Ethiopian Airlines has submitted a bid to take over the management of Arik Air, months after the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) took over the airline.
Since it began operations in 2006, Arik Air has grown to become one of Nigeria’s biggest airline with about 24 fleets flying both domestically and internationally
Speaking on behalf of shareholders of Arik Air, Okon condemned the planned hand over, describing the Federal Government as shameless and desperate.
Arik was taken over by the Federal Government in February, following the company’s huge debt profile.
The government dissolved the airline’s management team, and appointed Capt. Roy Ukpebo Ilegbodu as its news receiver-manager.
“This is not coming as a surprise since Ethiopian Airlines has a commercial objective of dominating Africa,” he said.
“What is a surprise is the shamelessness and desperation of our aviation authorities to mortgage the future of our country for gold and silver.
“Arik Air, a wholly owned Nigerian company operated without hitch for 10 years. It started when naira was 150/$1 and fuel was 97 per litre and managed without any significant increase in fares, it survived for 10 years in a very hostile operations environment, paying loans it obtained in USD and salaries to over 2000 employees.
“The company ran into heavy clouds as the economy went into recession and next line of action was for AMCON to take it over and now hurrying to hand it over to a foreign company that will sack most of the indigenous staff of the airline.”
He decried “the level of lack of patriotism and shamelessness by some people in government offices” and described it as “appalling and desecration of national decency and honor.
“I really will not blame Ethiopian. It is the gullible Nigerians who will sell his countrymen for peanuts. The aviation industry is losing Nigerian workers every day because the domestic airlines are dying.
“This is an industry that is projected to employ about 9.7 million Nigerian if well managed but everything is being handed over to foreign companies that will sack our people.
“They should look at why Nigerian Airlines don’t survive for a long time. They should look at their policies and operating environment in the country, which to us is an indictment of the country itself.
“It is further complicated with the fact that Nigeria generates the traffic that even all regional carriers including the famous Ethiopian Airlines depend on in West and Central Africa.
“Now you will surrender your own airline to a foreign competing airline that had suggested the liquidation of same entity. This raises more questions than answers,” Okon told Thisday.