…As FG orders resolution of rift with airline in 2 weeks
By Louis Iba and Magnus Eze, Abuja
Arik Air says it has paid the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) about N18.9billion as service charges for using its facilities at various airports across the country.
The airline also alleged that the management of the state-owned airport agency had failed over the years to show transparency and accountability in its documentation and management of funds paid by airline operators in the country.
At a press conference addressed by the Chairman of Arik Air, Sir. Joseph Arumemi-Ikhide and Managing Director/CEO, Mr. Chris Ndulue, the airline criticised the management of FAAN for misleading its workers into believing that it was the huge indebtedness that was responsible for FAAN’s financial woes that had impaired payment of monthly staff salaries and pension in recent months. “We have paid FAAN up to date about N18.9 bilion since our inception for the services it rendered to us and if it insists we are owing, let management provide documented evidence,” said Arik Air Chairman, Arumemi-Ikhidi. “FAAN took us to court on the issue of the debts we are owing. It said it has seen N11.4million up to June 2015. FAAN also said it has also seen other payments in its accounts which it can’t trace to anybody. And a Ministerial Committee was also set up to resolve the issue of this alleged debt. But each time we want to get to the bottom of the case, FAAN gets evasive. How sad that for a case that is in court, the management of FAAN is now saying its workers can resort to self-help to recover debts from an airline which is an affront to the Court and the Nigerian state,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government yesterday gave the managements of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and the Arik Air Group two weeks within which to resolve all issues relating to indebtedness in their respective organisations.
Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, gave the directive at a meeting with the management of Arik Air in his office. Sirika directed the parties to report back to him at the expiration of the period with a resolution on amounts owed, payment plans and the way forward.
The Deputy Director, Press and Public Affairs in the Ministry, Mr. James Odaudu, in a statement said the Minister described the issue of alleged indebtedness by Arik Air, which led to disagreements with some trade unions within the regulatory agencies as highly regrettable, adding that while government will not condone lawlessness within the industry, all airline operators must conform to industry rules and regulations. Sirika urged all airlines to pay applicable fees and fines as at when due, stressing that the well-being of an airline is measured by its ability to pay for services rendered to it.
Earlier, the Chairman of Arik Air, Sir Arumeni Johnson, decried the regularity and impunity with which trade unions operating at the airports disrupted the airline’s operations under the guise of its indebtedness to their organisations, saying that such practices, if not stopped by the authorities, was capable of running down the industry.