Baring any unforeseen circumstances, the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), will be shutting down operations at the corporate headquarters of Arik Air in Lagos, over plans to change the the airline’s name to Nigeria Eagle.
A reliable union source told Daily Sun that plans are ongoing to change the name of the embattled airline from Arik Air to Nigeria Eagle which is now creating apprehension among present and past staff who are being owed arrears of salary.
The source said that though the rebranding is expected to help the carrier attract new investors, there is palpable fear among staff and various government agencies that no investor would want to carry liabilities incurred while it was still bearing the old name.
“The reason why the company wants to change the name is to possibly attract new investors but as I speak, the fear in Arik Air is that the management may want to offload the actual financial situation when it changes the name and pitches it to investors. “In all honesty, the situation is not clear now. We know that there are plans to change the name but the management hasn’t come out to address the issue and this lack of clarity is worsening the situation. Workers don’t know what to expect. What happens to the huge debt it is owing government agencies, contractors and its past and present workers?
“Unless there is more clarity about this issue, both unions may shut down operations at the airline’s corporate headquarters on Monday, September 14,” the source said.
Meanwhile, Mr Martins Agoziem, a legal expert who spoke to Daily Sun on the planned name change by Arik Air said it would not obliterate or erase the liabilities of the company.
“The purpose of a change of name may be to rebrand but it doesn’t automatically erase the company’s liabilities,” Agoziem said.
Arik Air’s plan to change its name to Nigeria Eagle ( NG Eagle) may have been concluded as one of its aircraft is already being painting.
A prototype of the livery shows the new logo of an eagle brand on the aircraft’s engine, tail painted in green colour, with a touch of grey and the moniker NG Eagle written on the starboard.
Sources say the process is being spearheaded by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) after it took control of the airline because of its huge debts.
Earlier in the year, there were speculations that the Federal Government might adopt the airline as its carrier after the AMCON Chief Executive, Ahmed Kuru, called for it to be made a national carrier, saying it was not only cheaper, but has all it takes to handle the transition.
Kuru had made a similar request in 2019, when he urged the National Assembly to support Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika to use Arik as a national carrier to save cost.
He had argued that a new carrier would cost Federal Government more to set up than an Arik Air that is already operational and has enough aircraft and facilities that can be used to set up a new airline should the government approve of it. However, his proposal was shut down by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika who had in 2017 laid the foundation for Nigeria Air, which is yet to get an Air Operators Certificate (AOC).
AMCON spokesman, Jude Nwauzor and Arik Air’s communication manager, Ola Banji, didn’t respond to messages sent to them.