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FG still looking for initial $300m for Nigeria Air as AMCON keeps mute on 2 airlines

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The initial pomp and pageantry that greeted the unveiling of Nigeria Air name and logo recently at the London Air-Show may be fading away over apparent paucity of fund as the federal government suddenly become speechless on further build to the December inaugural flight.
Currently, there is no known plan to order for either new or fairly aircrafts and nothing has been heard on office accommodation, recruitment and even needed certifications to commence operations.
This is coming at a time the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) is still confused as to what to do with both Arik Air, and Aero Contractors it has managed to stability and still hanging on it while shareholders kick for return of their investments after all.
Whereas it was not clear if the supervising ministry is finding it easy to access the initial $300m for Nigeria Air, a credible source confided in our correspondent that the recent presidential vacation in London and cold feet of then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo frustrated requests for funding from government coffers.
For instance, Business Hilights investigations on the matter revealed that up till now, there is no application for an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) coming from Nigeria Air found at the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Otherwise, there are strong indications that government may have gone back to the drawing board to review initial plans which it has continued to hide from industry operators as no private sector operator made the list of steering committee but government officials even though the same handling government claimed that it will be private sector driven.
Still on the duo of Arik and Aero Contractors, it would be recalled that the essence of AMCON takeover is to save the airlines from imminent collapse, and return them to profitability which by all standards may have been met by now.
Industry observers say considering the apparent stability of the two domestic airlines, it will not be unfair for AMCON to start disengagement process so that the original owners can come in and deepen investment on the airlines going forward.
Early signs of stability of the two airlines can be seen from the recent Aero Contractors’ divestment into the resuscitation of its Approved Maintenance Organisations (AMO) facility, which has since commenced Maintenance Repair and Overhaul services for Boeing 737 classics aircraft, plus the stability and sustenance of Arik Air in both local and regional operations since the takeover.
Another expert who spoke on the two airlines argued that “AMCON as a government agency just came in to stabilize the airlines by protecting the employees, sustain the transport network and the economy which we can say it has achieved”.
Continuing, the expert who pleaded anonymity noted that “Having said that, I don’t think that AMCON mandates include taking the two to the next level, rather it is time to handover to original owners possibly with terms and condition on debt repayment plan so that they can start investing huge capital in the airlines, paying creditors, buying aircraft and other routine growth plans among others”.
The expert was however quick to point out that “There are however, other issues which I don’t think AMCON has really handled which on transfer to the right owners, can be easily handled after all. These include issues bordering on workers’ benefits, indebtedness to various parties, and what to do with government’s stake in the airlines”.
For example recently, the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), at the their National Executive Council (NEC) decried the failure of AMCON to, in almost two years, honour the redundancy agreement, which ATSSSAN and other unions signed with the management of Aero Contractors in 2016.
Besides, there unconfirmed signals that the federal government may merge both airlines to serve as Nigeria Air if the observed funding crisis persist as December deadline nears.

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