The Federal Government has been advised to revoke the “illegal sale” of Nigeria Airways assets to Arik Air.
The Secretary General of Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP), Comrade Abdul-Rasaq Saidu, gave this advice during an interview with ShaaraReporters in Lagos, describing the sale of the former national carrier’s assets to Arik Air in 2006 as “illegal and “devoid of transparency”.
Saidu explained that instead of wasting time and money floating a new national carrier, government should re-name Arik Air as Nigeria Airways after the takeover.
The airline owners, he alleged, had not fully paid the amount the airline was sold to them by the liquidator, adding that government should refund the owners the amount paid for the illegal transactions at the time of sale.
It would be recalled that the Bureau for Public Enterprise (BPE) under former President Olusegun Obasanjo had sold the Nigeria Airways’ assets at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA) Lagos to Arik Air in 2006 at N960million.
The assets included the landed property and the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities and other equipment in the MRO.
Several stakeholders and professionals in the sector had condemned the liquidation of the airline by the government then, saying its assets were far above its liabilities.
They had argued that rather than liquidate the airline through a fiat, the carrier should have been allowed to continue operations. They said the carrier was intentionally undervalued.
Till date, the Nigerian workers of the airline were yet to be paid their final severance packages while no fewer than 800 of them had since died.
Also, there are unconfirmed rumours that Arik Air management led by Sir Joseph Arumemi-Ikhide, had not fully paid the sum to the government till date, even before it was taken from it in February 2017 by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) due to huge unpaid debts.
Saidu noted that his advice to President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration was based on the fact that the 1959 Act of Parliament that established Nigeria Airways out of the then West African Airways Corporation (WAAC) has not been repealed or revoked by the country’s National Assembly at the time of liquidation or thereafter, after which it was sold to the owners of Arik Air.
He said the sale of Nigeria Airways, albeit, illegally, marked the beginning of high-level corruption in the country’s aviation industry, and that the Buhari administration should beam searchlight on this alleged fraud and all those involved during the tenure of former President Obasanjo be brought to book.
“Nigeria Airways, a public liability company was stolen by tricks. So, we want to know or in other words, Federal Government should take over Arik Air. Let the owners tell us how much they paid at the time of the ‘illegal’ purchase and let government refund the money and take over Arik Air and consequently re-name it Nigeria Airways,” he said.
“Why are they dodging it, especially the present Minister of State, Aviation, who must have inherited documents on the transactions, if truly they are helping Buhari to fight corruption? It is on record that three quarter of the landed property in Ikeja, Government Reserved Area (GRA), were owned by Nigeria Airways. How much were those assets sold and to whom and where is the proceeds?
“If you talk about operational coverage, in Lagos, Nigeria Airways has technical stores, serviceable aircraft and several aircraft engines. Where are they? We have Nigeria Airways aircraft engines scattered around the world, especially in Europe, America, West Coast, Britain (London) and Dubai. Where are the proceeds of such sales?”
Saidu added that it was interesting when the President asked in 2015: “Where is Nigeria Airways?” And up till date, all officials privy to the illegal transactions have not been able to provide answers to the knotty question.
He also wondered why the government was yet to pay Nigeria Airways workers’ their full entitlements till date.