The Nigerian Senate has expressed displeasure over the attitude of the Ministry of Aviation towards the on-going efforts by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), to set up a new national airline in the country.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, Senator Uba Sani, who made this known on Wednesday, accused the ministry of frustrating the efforts of the debt resolution agency to set up a new airline tagged NG Eagle.
Speaking during a meeting at the Zuma Rock Resort in Niger State, Senator Sani noted that the Aviation ministry had denied AMCON the final Air Operating Certificate (AOC) needed for the new airline to commence scheduled operations.
This, he said, was even after AMCON had scaled all huddles and met all relevant conditions as required by law.
He decried the situation whereby certain agencies of government, including the Ministry of Aviation, were working at cross-purposes, pointing out that this was not in the overall interest of the Nigerian economy.
Head of Public Communications of the debt resolution agency, Jude Nwauzor, had in a statement recalled that AMCON’s intervention in Arik Air Limited (“Arik”) in February of 2017 was supported by the Ministry of Aviation to prevent imminent collapse of another Nigerian airline, especially one that controlled over 60% of the domestic Air transportation in the country among other public concerns. AMCON in a statement by
Explaining that the intervention was necessary at that time for the continued existence of the airline, the statement, also said AMCON was setting up NG Eagle as strategic exit from its aviation portfolio.
The concerned airlines owed over N300billion, and all funds injected into the airlines pre, and post receivership have not yielded any positive repayment result.
AMCON therefore opted for a strategic exit from its aviation portfolio through NG Eagle, creating an unencumbered and brand-new airline that would be easier to dispose profitably.
Continuing, Senator Sani said: “This AMCON intervention in Arik and the frustration the agency is going through because of its proposal to set up NG Eagle as best option to recover its investment in the airlines is not supposed to be. I think we are about to lose billions of naira because of ego. The ministry is not being realistic with his proposal of a National Carrier and because of that frustrating the efforts of AMCON on NG Eagle.
“I say it is not realistic after we listened to the explanations of the ministry that the government will own only 5% of the new National Carrier, Nigerians will own 46% and yet to be named foreign interest will own 49%. So, I think the Executive arm of government will work together with the 9th Senate under this Committee to ensure that the right things are done to enable AMCON recover this huge outstanding N4.4trillion debt.
“It is also on that note that the Senate through this Committee is directing the Management of AMCON led by Ahmed Lawan Kuru, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer to again publish the full list of AMCON obligors in daily newspapers so that Nigerians will know those that have played leading roles in destroying the economy of this great country.”
Earlier I his welcome address, the AMCON Managing Director explained that “AMCON getting involved in the airline is not from a recovery perspective, but from a national duty perspective to ensure that the airline continued to operate given its strategic importance in the aviation sector at that time.
He said: “After intervention by AMCON, the airline continued to meet its obligations particularly that of the Aviation Ministry. The airline has so far remitted over N12billion as ongoing obligations to the ministry. The Corporation also do realize that at certain point in time it must prepare an exit strategy from all its aviation portfolio, and based on advice, decided to set up NG Eagle through the process of certification by Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
“It was a very vigorous process that took us more than two years. Ultimately, we were able to meet all the requirements including getting three aircrafts branded (they are currently at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos, branded as NG Eagle) and ready for operation but we are being frustrated.
“NG Eagle is not a national carrier. We have no business with that. We are only concerned with recovering our money, but first we were told that NG Eagle sounds too much like a national carrier. We reminded them that they had issued license to United Nigeria Airlines, and somehow that one does not sound like a national carrier to them.
“We are also aware that based on the NCAA Act, the only condition for NCAA to deny anyone a license to operate an airline should be based on safety reasons, which would be investigated and brought to the attention of the applicant for fair hearing. Suddenly we are again being confronted with the challenge through the National Assembly that the license should not be released until AMCON settles Arik debt with NCAA, this we believe is an afterthought.”