Uncertainty surrounds the status of Nigeria’s proposed national carrier NG Eagle as the Nigerian Government’s plans to float a new national airline is shrouded in secrecy, making experts and stakeholders wonder about the fate of Arik Air as talks are on to transmute the debt-ridden Arik Air to NG Eagle or Nigeria Eagle Airline.
A few weeks ago, two B737 aircraft belonging to Arik were painted in the livery of the proposed airline and were seen parked in the Arik Air hangar at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos. Two rebranded aircraft belonging to the airline arrived in Nigeria after a livery change at Ethiopia Airlines.
NG Eagle, an airline floated by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) ‘Nigeria Eagle’ was incorporated as NG Eagle Limited RC: 1600277 on July 11, 2019, with a share capital of N1 billion. The Nigerian government had consistently maintained that it was on the verge of floating a new national carrier after the liquidation of Nigeria Airways and the mysterious death of Virgin Nigeria.
But the Chief Executive Officer of Arik Air, Capt. Roy Ilegbodu in an interview with AirInsight in Lagos said that the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) owned airline NG Eagle is an entirely different entity from Arik Air as there is no connection between both airlines. Ilegbodu explained that the fact a couple of Arik aircraft livery were painted in NG Eagle colors was because the assets were mortgaged for a loan and now the owners took possession of their assets. His words, “In reality, there is no connection between the two. That said, you are aware that NG Eagle is solely owned by AMCON and of course you know that Arik Air itself is in receivership and the receivership was instituted by AMCON which is based on the fact that Arik owes significant sums of money to AMCON. So if you can infer from there that’s the relationship”.
Meanwhile, a fresh crisis is brewing and it is one that may derail the take-off of the new airline except all labor-related matters are resolved. The National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) has sought answers and explanations to the alleged movement of assets including personnel of Arik Air under receivership of the AMCON to a proposed NG Eagle Airline without the resolution of all labor-related matters.
The union welcomed the proposed setting up of a new carrier because of job creation the venture would attract, provision of incentives for deeper business penetration and generally widening the Nigerian aviation horizon, however, NUATE stated that there are ominous signs that what should ordinarily be a lofty project will likely run into challenges created by the fouled and convoluted industrial atmosphere at Arik Air.
NUATE scribe, Ocheme Aba stated. “We consider it most unfortunate that an odd combination of AMCON’s egoistic, evasive and self-defeating tendencies on the one hand, and Arik Air’s unrelenting penchant for courting crisis on the other hand, as well as severally demonstrated lack of capacity/disdain for labour relations practice, have evoked a perplexing atmosphere of forlornness in the airline. Under this atmosphere, it is practically impossible to be hopeful of any good thing. Hence, our misgivings concerning NG Eagle”.