Aviation Unions Want NASS, Sirika, Labour Minister To Intervene In Aero, Arik’s Problems

The National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) have called on the National Assembly Committees on Aviation, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika and the Minister of Labour & Employment, Chris Ngige to “use their good offices to cause an intervention that could save Aero and Arik, the workers and their families, as well as Nigeria’s aviation industry from imminent disaster.”
A statement jointly signed by Comrade Ocheme Aba, NAUTE General Secretary and Comrade Frances Akinjole, ATSSSAN Deputy General Secretary reads: “Specifically, we call for a probe of the circumstances surrounding the rumored selling of one or both of the airlines to the promoters of 5A’s for cheap after the airlines must have been forced to the ground by an artificially created financial crumbling. We also call for strong and deeply reflective interface among the Ministry of Aviation, AMCON and the legacy shareholders of Aero Contractors and Arik Air for the purpose of knocking out a deal that could truly rejuvenate the airlines, one way or another and resolve the legacy owners’ imbroglio once and for all. We call for a complete stop of further attempts to truncate genuine revamping efforts at keeping these airlines on the part of recovery. Specifically, we call for a halt of further attempts through House of 5A’s to force any phony lease contracts down the throat of Aero Contractors and Arik Air.
We equally make a passionate appeal to AMCON not to allow any form of weariness stand in the way of efforts to achieve the plan of turning around the fortunes of the two airlines. We wish to share with AMCON our unshaking belief that the task can, and must, be done. It requires, though, that all hands must be on deck and working harmoniously. To this effort we pledge our cooperation and collaboration.
Finally, we use this medium to reiterate our call on AMCON to immediately replace the Receiver Manager of Aero Contractors because the assignment is obviously well outside his competence, as clearly marked by his abdication of his role.”
The unions further alleged that “it is crystal clear that some forces are toying with the lives of Aero Contractors and Arik Air. This translates as toying with the lives and livelihood of thousands of Nigerian citizens. It also means toying with Nigeria’s aviation ecosystem. And we hold strongly that these forces do not mean well for Nigeria, but may have a lot to benefit selfishly. As such, it is important for the Nigerian government and the Nigerian people to counter and neutralize these dark forces.”
The unions alleged that Aero plans to sack 40% of its workforce and questions this move, highlighting the prospects of Aero as an airline.
“Aero operates the B737 Classic generation, the oldest of which just clocked 30 years. This class of aircraft are able to operate up to 85,000 cycles, or 100,000 flight hours as approved by the Manufacturer, Boeing. None of these aircraft in Aero’s fleet has operated up to half of the approved figures. We stand to be proved wrong. While it is true that older aircraft do have higher maintenance costs, it must be borne in mind that the Airline owns an approved Maintenance & Repair Organisation (MRO) with elite Engineers in its fold. Till date, there is no report from the MRO, or the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) that any aircraft operated by Aero is too old to be maintained, or to fly. Or that there exist any shortfalls in Aero’s maintenance culture. On the contrary, Aero’s maintenance culture is rated among the very best. Therefore, this high flying lie of too old aircraft in Aero clearly bears ulterior motive.”
“Aero does have an MRO that maintains and carries out up to 1D Check on own and third party carriers. The MRO is currently on the threshold of becoming a major player in the industry. As a matter of fact, the Airline, Aero, just granted the MRO autonomy to operate as a quasi-subsidiary, being part of its unbundling plan. The MRO does have very bright prospects no doubt if properly managed and funded.”
“Aero does operate a rotary wing which if granted lease of life, has expansive capacity to prosper through contracts with oil companies and for charter operations of which she was previously the leading firm in Nigeria. This too has just become a separate business unit, showing its viability.”
According to the unions, Aero has “an approved Aviation Training Organisation (ATO) under Aero with unlimited prospects, and which could decide to even rival the Nigerian College of aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria. It is also now a separate business unit, to underscore its potentials.”
The unions equally raised the following questions: “The question begging for answers is who are those so eager to see Aero gone? And why? On this score, we note, and question the rationale of seconding Mr. Charles Johnson-Arumeme from Arik Air to Aero as Commercial Manager. Mr. Johnson-Arumeme it was who drew up the schedule that granted Aero’s juicy routes to House of 5A’s. The same Mr. Johnson-Arumeme has overseen the bastardization of the Aero online sales portal as to deliberately render it thoroughly defective. We observe that the sales portal would show seats not available when only about 30 passengers would have booked by then. This is in addition to exceedingly poor schedule with bad timings just to discourage prospective passengers.
All these acts are clear cases of self-sabotage. This is as baffling as it is exasperating. Is Mr. Charles Johnson-Arumeme a face of the hidden forces working to kill Aero? Why is he working in Aero, but receiving salary from Arik?”
In a reaction to the allegation by the unions, Aero Contractors in a statement said the allegations of the unions were unfounded. The statement reads: “It is pure mischief that when things are rosy the unions keep quiet, but when challenges occur they quickly run around with wild allegations and threats. It is in this regard that we are at a loss why the staff, knowing the challenges airlines are facing in the current operating environment are always in a haste to compromise confidential information to the public and make it an issue of discussion.
All the allegations about the Managing Director on House of 5A’s and Charles Arumemi Johnson are unfounded. Charles, is a very competent staff of Arik Air owned by AMCON, which equally owns Aero Contractors; therefore there is no conflict of interest. He is instrumental to the recently launched Aero portal which has given the site a face lift and made more user friendly compared to the previous website.
On the House of 5A’s, every partnership was done with the aim of improving the revenues of the airline, particularly in relation to our unserviceable equipments and ensuring standard customer service. The question is what was our revenue before, during and after the exit of House of 5As? They should please respond.
We are conscious of the challenges we are facing and have been prudent with our expenses, and doing our best to take care of staff welfare. We urge the staff and unions to desist from this attitude and support the company to overcome its challenges. The current management decided to create the four Strategic Business Units (SBUs): Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO), Aviation Training Organisation (ATO), Airline Operation and Rotary Wing, to enhance efficiency and profitability.
There’s no Nigerian carrier without debt overhang caused by the operating environment. And all major airlines in the world have had similar challenges, but took strategic measures to turn around the airlines. It is unfortunate that the airline industry operates on thin margins and airlines are always making efforts to be leaner and smarter to stay afloat.
Whatever management decisions are taken are usually done with the engagement of the unions. It is at the instance of the unions the Chief Executive Officer called for a Townhall meeting last week. We believe that as the revenues begin to improve over the next few months, following strategic engagements with potential partners, the airline’s fortune will improve. We recognize the huge and massive potentials of Aero Contractors and are taking strategic steps to exploit them for the benefits of all stakeholders in these challenging times.”

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Albinus Chiedu

Albinus Chiedu is a journalist, aviation media consultant, events management professional, and author. He has practiced journalism since 2000.

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