By Louis Ibah
Worried by continuous losses to the country due to the absence of a national airline to reciprocate existing Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASA), with about 88 countries, some concerned stakeholders in the industry have advocated the merger of Nigeria’s debt-ridden airlines, Aero Contractors and Arik Air to birth a new national carrier.
The experts who spoke to aviation correspondents over the weekend, noted that after a stock taking of trending events in the industry, including theFederal Government’s inability to attract investors to buy into the national carrier project as well as Arik and Aero current debt crisis, the country was left with no viable option than to merge the two airlines (Aero Contractors and Arik Air) where it has controlling equities into a national carrier.
Avaition analyst, Capt. John Ojikutu for instance said it had even become very glaring that no investor would invest in Arik Air in its present state of massive debts running into over N300billion, even as he queried the rationale for not working out modalities to merge it with Aero Contractors.
Ojikutu said for AMCON to offset the N300billion debt, it should be making a net profit of N10billion annually for 30 years, stressing that this would be difficult for the Corporation to achieve especially when the current management suspended its entire long-haul routes.
Said Ojikutu, “AMCON does not have the resources to run that airline especially when it suspended its international routes. With domestic operations alone, there is no way the airline can make that profit annually. The only way they can make headway is for the government to merge Aero and Arik and turn them into a national or flag carrier, then bring in foreign technical partners.
For his part, industry expert and former Director of Engineering, Medview Airline, Mr. Lukeman Animaseun, said the major reason AMCON took over Arik Air was to recover debt for the company, noting that because of the airline’s debt burden, no investor would be interested in investing in it, but that if AMCON decides to manage the carrier, it would take it a minimum of 30 years to recover the money it invested in the airline, considering its current turnover.
Animaseun therefore argued that the best option for AMCON and the Federal Government was “to establish a national carrier out of the airlines.”
“It would amount to a waste of resources and spending a longer time trying to establish a new national carrier, when Arik Air and Aero Contractors that are under Federal Government’s management could be used to establish a national carrier,” said Animaseun.
Arik Air has structures, my thinking is that there is no need starting a new national carrier; what government should do is to earmark funds and carry out maintenance of all the aircraft in the fleet and start the new national carrier.
This is the only window AMCON has because it cannot let go of the money it sank in the airline and managing the airline to get back the money through its revenues will take about 30 years because of the airlines profit margin. This is better and easier way out,” Animaseun said.