The crisis surrounding the startup airline, NG Eagle has taken a new dimension as the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) accused the Ministry of Aviation of being behind the move to deny the airline the air Operator’s Certificate (AOC).
The union specifically alleged that the Ministry of Aviation was afraid the floating of the new airline by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) would transmit to a new national carrier
Daily Trust reports that there has been an uneasy calm in the aviation industry over the proposed Nigeria Eagles being floated by AMCON, the receiver manager of Arik Air.
According to the union, the Ministry of Aviation intentionally pitched the aviation agencies against AMCON and its plan to float a new national carrier, using the debts of Arik Air as an excuse for the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) not to grant the new airline an AOC which would enable it to commence schedule operation.
Speaking at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos, NUATE General Secretary, Comrade Ocheme Aba, stated that information available to the unions indicated that the issue of indebtedness of Arik Air to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and NCAA as the major reason for calling on the regulatory body not to grant NG Eagle AOC was a disguise.
Aba called on President Muhammadu Buhari, to intervene in the crisis, saying that the two organisations; AMCON and Ministry of Aviation were agencies of the government.
He said: “It is understood that the real issue is the politics of a new national carrier. Indications are that there is the fear on the side of the Minister of Aviation that AMCON has positioned its new airline, NG Eagle, to metamorphose into a national carrier, whereas the Honourable Minister has been labouring for the past six years to create one, which he has named Nigeria Eagle.
“As AMCON and the Ministry are both agencies of the Federal Government, there is clearly no possibility of the two airlines operating side by side as national carriers. The fear is that if NG Eagle succeeds, then the Nigeria Eagle project would be jettisoned. That means one of the airlines must bulge. This, we understand, is the crux of the matter.”
He, however, canvassed for a solution to Arik’s huge indebtedness but said this should not be an excuse to deny another airline the AOC.
Aba said the situation is not good for the image of the country as agencies of same government are working at cross purposes.
“This unfortunately paints a picture of a government at war with itself. And if this war is not quickly brought to an end, we fear that the aviation sector of the national economy will suffer dire consequences, especially at this time that the sector is going through a burdensome grappling with the serious negative impact of the receding corona virus pandemic,” he added.
He stated that the new airline would create about 20,000 direct and indirect jobs for the country and called on Buhari to as a matter of urgency intervene on the issue before Arik Air is liquidated, while the planned NG Eagle is botched.
Spokesman of the Ministry of Aviation, Mr. James Odaudu, in a chat with Daily Trust, however, described the union’s allegations as unfounded.
“The allegation is malicious and unfounded. There’s no nexus between the two. NG Eagle (or Arik) is a private concern that cannot stop the establishment of a national carrier. By the way, the National Carrier is not christened Eagle as contained in their statement, but Nigeria Air. Can AMCON establish a national airline? The Minister has done a great deal to encourage the coming on stream of good number of new airlines.
“He’ll gladly welcome more. The national carrier project is very much on course and Nigerians will be proud of what they have. The unions should learn to be more charitable to someone who has done so much to improve their welfare, professionalism etc.”