Business Hilights
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Arik shareholders’ ambush FG, Ethiopian Airlines with N20bn suit over ‘veiled’ takeover


For being left incommunicado upon several media reports flying around on alleged plan between the Federal Government and authorities at Ethiopian Airlines to bundle away their investments in the company, shareholders of Arik Air Limited has filed a N20 billion suit against the federal government and Ethiopian Airlines.

The suit was instituted late Friday last week, at the Federal High Court, Lagos against Ethiopian Airlines, the Federal Ministry of Transportation and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Abubakar Malami.

It would be recalled that Business Hilights had on penultimate Monday, reported that contrary to the pronouncements of the Managing Director of International Services at Ethiopian Airlines, Esayas Wolde Mariam, on CNN last two weeks Thursday that the company had submitted a formal offer to take over the carrier, the Ministry of Aviation said they were not aware of the development.

Even though Mariam insists that “We have outlined our terms and conditions to the Nigerian government and we are waiting to see if they agree. We are capable and desirous of handling the airline,” the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), supposedly the recipient of the bid had also distanced self, thus raising issues of trust and confidence on the entire issue.

These counter claims were however, followed by another level of confusion and official denials as an official of the Nigerian embassy in Addis Ababa, Mr. Godfrey Odudigbo revealed that negotiations over Arik could be concluded by the end of the year.

Besides, mid last week, shareholders were further troubled as there had been no kind of confirmation from any government agency since the news broke and the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, had said that he was unaware of Ethiopian Airlines’ bid for Arik’s management.

The scenario therefore encouraged the shareholders to approach a Lagos Federal High Court and filed a suit on September 6, 2017 through Arik Air’s counsel, Mr Babajide Koku (SAN), Mr Chukwuemeka Nwigwe and Mrs Ezinne Emedom.

It would be recalled that Arik’s founder, Joseph Arumemi-Ikhide, was also quoted to have said the plan by the government to have Ethiopian Airlines manage Arik had failed, and that he would sue the East African airline if it tried to take over Arik.

The Federal Government, through AMCON, took over the operations of Arik, the nation’s biggest carrier, in February, and appointed Capt. Roy Ukpebo Ilegbodu as its new manager.

The nonperforming loan (NPL) of about N300bn, made up of about AMCON’s N135bn and those owed aviation fuel suppliers, insurance firms, aircraft maintenance, the Federal Government and the various aviation agencies, as well as food vendors.

Details from the statement of claim supported by a 20-paragraph affidavit deposed to by Mr Chris Ndulue, a Director with Arik Air, the plaintiff asked the court to restrain the first and second defendants from further negotiations on its takeover.