Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) is set to float a new airline, NG Eagle, deploying some of the assets of distressed Arik Air.
As at yesterday, two aircraft erstwhile operated by Arik, have been rebranded in the colours of NG Eagle and parked at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos, ahead of take-off.
The Guardian learnt the procedure for the Air Operating Certificate (AOC) has scaled the fourth stage of approval at the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), and will be issued to the new carrier.
Amid reactions from stakeholders over the fate of Arik Air, AMCON has said Arik Air will continue to operate side-by-side NG Eagle. Though the future of Arik is uncertain, NG Eagle, according to AMCON’s plans, will later be sold to investors or the Federal Government that is angling to float a new national carrier.
Recall that AMCON, a special purpose vehicle of the Federal Government for the recovery of debts, took over Arik Air in February 2017. The rationale was to save the airline from imminent collapse, citing gross mismanagement by the owners and debt in excess of N300 billion-plus.
The Federal Government injected billions into its operations to stabilise the airline. Besides paying salaries and meeting basic obligations, about nine out of 30 aircraft owned by Arik returned to operation, sustaining both local and regional operations.
About five years down the line, The Guardian learnt that the airline remains a hard sell, given the level of rot, debt and hard-to-recover liquidity pumped in to keep it on life support.
Sources within the airline that responded to our enquiries on AMCON changing Arik to NG Eagle, spoke in denial, saying both are distinct entities.
“AMCON is exchanging its cash investment in Arik with assets. The government has spent so much to defray N300 billion-plus liability just to keep the airline from dying and more Nigerians out of jobs. Rather than continue to wait, it has taken two good planes on the airline to form a new one,” one of the sources said.
Arik Air Receiver Manager, Kamilu Omokide, told reporters the airline would be operated along with NG Eagle, at least till the end of 2021.
Omokide said AMCON would continue to support Arik Air, as it had concluded plans to wet-lease three aircraft for Arik operations.
He said: “Arik does not plan to get out of business. It will operate side-by-side with NG Eagle for a while. We have been able to access wet leases and we have been able to run them very professionally. AMCON is not taking all the planes. We have a plan to bring three more planes with the support of AMCON on wet lease, ACMI.
“We are not rushing to kill Arik. We cannot pull all of our aircraft from Arik. Arik will be sustained throughout this year. Arik has a very big space at its headquarters that can take in four airlines on a good arrangement where costs can be shared.
“So Arik has a huge facility, it has good workers who are experienced and we have been training staff since AMCON took over, something that was rare in the past. In fact, we have exposed the workers to all kinds of training. Our pilots are some of the best in the industry. Experience is very important,” he said.