Senate Says Aviation Ministry Sabortaging AMCON Efforts To Set Up New Airline
Photo Caption: From left, Senator Yakubu Oseni; a member of the Senate Committee on Banking Insurance and other Financial Institution; Chairman of the Senate Committee, Senator Uba Sani; Managing Director/CEO Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Ahmed Kuru; and the Executive Directors of AMCON, Aminu Ismail and Dr. Eberechukwu Uneze at the Senate Symposium in Niger State on Wednesday.
The Chairman Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, Senator Uba Sani, has declared that the 9th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not happy that certain agencies of government are working at cross-purposes.
Sani who spoke Wednesday at the Zuma Rock Resort in Niger State said the Upper Chamber was particularly not happy with the Aviation Ministry, accusing its management of frustrating efforts by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), a government debt resolution agency to set up a new airline tagged NG Eagle.
This he stated is not in the overall interest of the Nigerian economy, recalling that AMCON had scaled all huddles required by law but is being denied the final Air Operating Certificate (AOC) for the new airline to commence scheduled operations.
Recall that AMCON’s intervention in Arik Air Limited (Arik) in February of 2017 was supported by the Ministry of Aviation to prevent the imminent collapse of another Nigerian airline, especially one that controlled over 60% of the domestic Air transportation in the country amongst other public concerns. The intervention was necessary at that time for the continued existence of the airline.
AMCON had planned to set up NG Eagle as a strategic exit from its aviation portfolio, at a time Arik and Aero Contractors owed it over N300bn, lamenting that funds injected into the airlines before and after the receivership have not yielded any positive repayment result. AMCON, therefore, opted for a strategic exit from its aviation portfolio through NG Eagle, as an unencumbered and brand-new airline that would be easier to dispose of profitably.
A visibly angry 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 the 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 to 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.”
Speaking earlier, the AMCON chief executive, 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.
“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 does realize 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 the 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 branded (they are currently at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos, branded as NG Eagle) and ready for operation but we are being frustrated.”
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 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.”