Business & Economy - News - December 2, 2021

Senate frowns at Aviation Ministry’s refusal to issue operating license for NG Eagle airlines

…Directs AMCON to again publish the list of debtors

MEDIATRACNET

The practice by certain agencies of government to work at cross-purposes with others is militating against the overall interest of the Nigerian economy, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, Uba Sani, has said.

Sani who spoke at the Zuma Rock Resort in Niger State on Wednesday said the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly frowns at the decision by the Federal Ministry Aviation to deny the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) the final Air Operating Certificate (AOC) to enable the take-off of NG Eagle airline.

The lawmakers said although the government debt resolution agency scaled all huddles required by law to set up a new airline, its commencement of scheduled operations has been frustrated by the Ministry’s refusal to issue the operating certificate.

In February of 2017, AMCON’s intervention in Arik Air Limited supported by the Ministry prevented the collapse of another of Nigeria’s private airlines, which controlled over 60 percent of the domestic air transportation in the country.

In a statement on Wednesday in Abuja, AMCON said it was setting up NG Eagle as a strategic exit from its aviation portfolio, adding that the concerned airlines were owing over N300 billion, as all funds injected into their airline’s operations before and after receivership have not yielded any positive repayment results.

AMCON Spokesperson, Jude Nwauzor, said the agency opted for a strategic exit from its aviation portfolio by setting up NG Eagle, to create an unencumbered and a brand new airline that would be easier to dispose of profitably.

But Sani was not happy that the intervention by AMCON in Arik Air was not allowed in succeed in its setting up NG Eagle.

“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,” Sani lamented.

“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 to recover this huge outstanding N4.4trillion debt,” he added.

He said it was because of the need to get the matter resolved that the Senate, through its Committee on Aviation, directed the management of AMCON 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 country.

Earlier, in giving the background to the transaction, AMCON Managing Diector/CEO, Ahmed Kuru, explained that “AMCON was getting involved in setting up the airline was not from a recovery, but from a national duty call perspective, to ensure the airline continued to operate, given its strategic importance in the aviation sector at that time.

“After the 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 realized that at a 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 aircraft currently at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos branded as NG Eagle and ready for operation. But we are being frustrated by the ministry’s refusal to issue us with the operating certificate,” he said.

The AMCON MD added, “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 a 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 a 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 Airlines debt with NCAA. This, we believe, is an afterthought,” Kuru said.

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