ARIK Air has resumed operations after its management and the Nigerian government resolved their differences with the aviation ministry promising to rein in its employees which have disrupted the airline’s activities.
Last Thursday, Arik decided to ground its fleet, claiming that the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) was using its airport staff to disrupt the airline’s activities. This lead to thousands of passengers being stranded across the country as a war of words broke out between the two sides, with Arik alleging that the government was trying to coerce it.
However, the two sides had a two-hour meeting yesterday and agreed to sheath their swords. Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, the secretary to the federal government, who chaired the meeting, said that the issue was amicably resolved as the aviation agencies assured Arik that they would rein in the unions to enable the airline resume operations.
Senator Anyim said: “All issues in contention were discussed and resolved and a road map for the smooth working together of both parties was also agreed upon. We use this opportunity to appeal to both parties to eschew every provocation that may have arisen as a result of this unfortunate misunderstanding.
“On behalf of the Federal Ministry of Aviation and the management of Arik Air, we apologise to all travellers for the inconveniencies this unfortunate misunderstanding may have caused them. We are pleased to announce that Arik Air can now resume operations.”
He added that another meeting was scheduled between the airline and the government and over the next two weeks to resolve all other points of contention. Arik’s managing director Chris Ndulue, said that yesterday, there was no discussion on the payment of the debts the airline owe FAAN, which remains a subject of dispute between both sides.
Mr Ndulue added: “What happened is part of the sacrifices we have to make for pioneering this kind of operation. It stunts growth but we know that to get where we are going takes time and endurance. We suffered disruption of our operations as we suffered losses.”
Meanwhile, Arik Air has denied ever accusing the aviation minister Stella Oduah, of requesting for five per cent stake in the airline. Mr Ndulue said that the airline never said any such thing and that there was nothing like that in the address he read to the media last Thursday.
Defending the debt owed by the airline, reported to be N85. 482bn, which made the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) issue a directive that banks should no longer extend credit facility to the airline and others, Mr Ndulue said that there was no way an airline could have about 23 new generation aircrafts and operate many routes without being indebted. He added that shortlisting the airline among many other companies and individuals that should not be given loans by the banks, might be an oversight by the CBN.