We Don’t Owe IATA N78B—Arik Air
… Moves To Lay Off Staff Is Absolutely Not True—New MGT
…Expatriates Have Been Leaving Even Before AMCON’s Intervention
The former management of Arik Air has explained that it does not owe the world airline body; the international Air Transport Association (IATA) contrary to claims by the new management led Capt. Roy Ilegbodu.
The old management further explained that IATA has the mandate to collect the revenues of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), so when Arik Air paid its charges to these agencies, the invoices were duplicated in IATA, adding that the alleged $78 million debt was a misunderstanding,
“We have our receipts and banking tellers to back these payments, which we made directly to these agencies instead of through IATA” said an Arik source.
Also, there are indications that with drastic reduction of flights from 120 to average of 18 flights daily, its revenue continues to dwindle and the number of airworthy fleet continues to decrease, Arik Air would lay off majority of its workers.
According to the old management the airline, which has about 2000 workforce in its Nigerian operations with about N1 billion monthly wage bill and, according to inside sources, the airline has a projected monthly revenue of N1.5 billion, which is not enough to meet operating costs, offset aircraft insurance bills or pay its creditors.
But in a swift reaction, the Media Consultant to AMCON on Arik Air, Mr. Simon Tumba said categorically that the airline has no plan to sack workers.
According to him, “It’s absolutely not true that the airline is laying off staff. The mandate of the current management is to stabilise the airline and normalise operations. There has never been any discussion of downsizing. KPMG is already doing an audit of assets; liabilities and that may include staff headcount, since the previous management did not leave any record of 2015 and 2016 finances and general affairs of the company.
In the same vein, there is also allegation that the airline is challenged by lack of funds because it cannot on its own generate enough revenue to service the aircraft already on Aircraft On Ground(AOG), source fuel and pay the workers.
To service the five airplanes mentioned by Tumba in his last media parley, the old management claimed that the airline would need about $1.5 million, which it may likely source from the black market.
There has been talks that AMCON may inject about N15 billion into the airline as start up fund after the initial funding of about N4 billion, but the hope of getting more fund from the government agency continues to recede as the Captain Roy Ilegbodu leadership of the airline grapples with the challenge of managing the company.
Responding to the above claim, Tumba, said, “The government is already assisting financially to ensure the airline operates smoothly, but I cannot confirm any figures at the moment. I am aware that the amount so far is certainly far from the N15billion you mentioned.”
A source in the order, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, alleged that some of the expatriate personnel and some technical staff have started leaving the company on their own because of the reduction of the airline’s operation and cabin crew now scramble to be shortlisted for work.
“To fix the airplanes we need money. We may have made a mistake by stopping the Lagos-London flights because it is now difficult to get spares from the manufacturers, which we used to fly in from London and we need the spares on regular basis,” a management official said, adding that the new management had to cut off regional and international flights because it is difficult to source forex to services those routes, as the devalue of the naira continues to threaten Nigerian airlines.
It was also gathered that Captain Ilegbodu said that he cannot compromise the safety standard of the airline; that instead of souring spares from secondary sources rather than from the manufacturer, he would rather rest the airplane.
According to informed source, Ilegbodu said he would not want to record any major incident or accident while the airline is under his management.
He said he would only buy spares from the original manufacturer or he would rest the airplane if he cannot source the right parts,” the source also said.
One of the major challenges Arik Air is facing is the reduction of its frequencies and destinations, coupled with the fact that passengers have shunned the airline because of the growing uncertainty surrounding Nigeria’s biggest carrier.
Reacting to the comment that expatriates and technical personnel were leaving the company, the Media Consultant explained that even before AMCON took over the embattled entity, expatriates were already leaving, as according to him they were owed salaries for many months.