Respected journalist and columnist with Thisday newspapers, Ijeoma Nwogwugwu has challenged the position of Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika, following his stance on setting up a new national carrier rather than toe the line of the suggestion made by Mr Ahmed Lawan Kuru, Managing Director/CEO, Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON). The AMCON boss wants the government to jettison the minister’s idea and leverage the assets of Arik for that purpose.
In an era when the government is over burdened with developing critical assets across the country without enough funds to back such projects, AMCON MD is wooing the federal government to convert the assets of Arik Airlines, which it took over in February 2017 for the national carrier rather than spending the scarce resources trying to set up a brand new airline for the nation. But rather than support the idea, the minister has been busy trying to preach that it was better to spend on new airline, a move, which Ijeoma Nwogwugwu finds illogical.
According to Nwogwugwu, “The Minister of Aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika continues to dwell in an alternative universe. He insists on harbouring a pipe dream for a national carrier that the government of Nigeria can ill-afford. He jumped into the fray last week when he responded to a suggestion by the chief executive of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Ahmed Kuru that the federal government should make the debt-ridden Arik Air the national carrier. But in a swift response, Sirika dismissed the advisory, saying the airline was not fit for purpose and was privately owned.
“Sirika is dead wrong and would do well by accepting the suggestion made by Kuru. To buttress my point, let me regurgitate from my article a year ago titled Requiem for Nigeria Air: “Arik Air, Aero Contractors and the remnants of the defunct Air Nigeria (successor of Virgin Nigeria), following their takeover by AMCON, currently belong to the Nigerian government. With the still operational Arik and Aero Contractors under its control, AMCON, with the assistance of reputable international consultants and the Ministry of Aviation, should begin the process of underwriting the liabilities of both airlines, hiving off and disposing of their non-core assets, and merging the airlines into one entity.
“After the corporate restructuring process, which must include a share restructuring strategy that leaves the owners of the legacy airlines with some minority stake in the emerging entity, the new airline should be offered for sale to core strategic investors capable of injecting fresh capital into it and expanding its fleet and operations. This avenue is a surer way of getting an airline with a Nigerian identity off the ground. Sirika must bury his ill-fated attempt to start an airline from scratch. The Nigerian government does not need a 5% stake in any airline, nor does it need to provide a take off grant of $300m. The government can barely fund the construction of roads in the country, nor can it adequately fund the education and health sectors, much less provide funding for an airline.
“If the aviation ministry has the resources to spare, they should be deployed in improving airport infrastructure and the concession of Nigeria’s viable airports to the private sector. The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has proven to be a basket case. Like the phantom Nigeria Air, it needs to be buried and confined to the dustbins of history.”