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No airline is currently gaining from Nigerian bilateral deals—Senator Okon

Pioneer spokesman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former Vice-Chairman of Arik Air, Senator Anietie Okon has revealed that currently no Nigerian airline is benefitting properly from the bilateral agreement Nigeria signed with other countries.

In an interview, he decried that rather government has given away all the routes to foreign airlines at the detriment of Nigeria’s interest.

According to him, the economic and social consequences of government not supporting the airline and other airlines in the industry include job losses, the weakening of the value of naira.

Senator Okon recalled that Arik, before its financial crisis, was selling tickets for international destinations in naira while foreign airlines continue to demand for dollars and it had 2, 600 staff against that of foreign airlines that may have at most 10 Nigerian staff.

He submitted that in other climes, government would have stepped in to save Arik Air by not just takeover, but providing it and other airlines the needed support, knowing that the economic problem was a national issue, but instead it forcefully took Arik over and today the airline is operating less than 40 percent of its capacity.

Arik-Air 99While noting that Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), which is currently managing the airline, is striving to keep the airline operating at very low capacity, most of the aircraft due for maintenance are still grounded due to lack of resources to take them out for repairs before the takeover.

Continuing, he averred that at the 11th year of the airline, the former management had planned to bring in new aircraft from Boeing, the B737 MAX to take over from the existing ones while the later go for heavy maintenance.

Okon revealed further that before the annexation, “The stakeholders are gearing for a rebirth of the airline. Eight aircraft are ripe for heavy checks. They are there parked and wasting away. They have degraded the maintenance culture of the company because we take the aircraft to European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) rated maintenance facility, but we heard they now take them to Lithuania facility where the maintenance cost is cheap but even at that they cannot even pay for the aircraft they have taken out”.

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