Who Will Rescue The Aviation Industry?


Nigeria’s aviation industry seems to be in disarray and the recommendation on Wednesday by the Senate  Committee on Aviation to nationalise Arik Air, instead of setting up a new national carrier from scratch, is  a scam and a reminder that the ailing sector is tumbling further down.

The committee recommended that the airline, officially owned by Port Harcourt-based businessman, Dr. Michael  Arumemi-Ikhide, should become the national carrier, pending the time the Aviation Ministry sets up a new  national carrier. That time may take many years to come and Nigeria may squander billions of naira as it  tries to upgrade Arik Air to the status of the country’s national carrier.

Nigeria has been without a national carrier since the demise of Nigeria Airways in 2003, when its multi- billion naira facilities were sold to Arik Air for less than a billion naira. Sources have alleged that Arik  Air is partly owned by a former governor of Rivers State and a former Nigerian President from the Southwest.  Nigeria Airways, the airline that Arik Air is recommended to replace, was founded in 1958 after the  dissolution of West African Airways Corporation.

It was wholly owned by the Government of Nigeria, and even owned about 30 aircraft in the 1980s. It was one  of the best airlines in Africa and had some of the best pilots the continent could boast of. But it was  plagued by corruption and mismanagement and in 2003, it was heavily indebted and owned only one aircraft for  domestic routes and two leased aircraft for its international flights.   It was shut down by former President  Olusegun Obasanjo and its facilities around the country were sold to Arik Air at giveaway prices.  Stakeholders then kicked against the move and accused the government of using Arik to siphon stolen money.

Although these allegations have not been proven and Arik Air has acquired more aircraft, aviation analysts  say it will be Nigeria’s biggest scam if the airline became our national carrier. The airline is said to owe  AMCON billions of naira and often struggles with staff wages and leased aircraft.  With the Senate  committee’s decision, Arik Air’s debt will be transferred to Nigeria’s taxpayers, the analysts have warned.  Experts in the aviation sector have even labelled the move to nationalise Arik Air “a trick to settle the  boys and pass the debts and liabilities to the country”.

Related News

We agree with Gboyega Adeoye, an aviation analyst, that “the action is ungodly, mean and callous.”  If this  recommendation is adopted by the National Assembly, Arik Air will enjoy preferential rights and privileges,  accorded by the government, for international operations. We believe that the Federal Government of Nigeria  is rich enough to set up a national carrier from scratch, using its own resources, instead of buying over  debts and liabilities.

A national carrier is fully or partly owned by the government. Its assets and liabilities partly or fully  belong to the government as well. If Arik Air becomes the national carrier, its debts and liabilities will be  inherited by the Nigerian government and paid back by Nigerian taxpayers. This is unacceptable.

The Nigerian aviation industry seems to lack focus and corruption seems to dominate the decision-making  mechanism in the sector. It is a shame that smaller and poorer countries that do not have our petro-dollar  capabilities have successful national carriers and Nigeria has none.

The history of air crashes in Nigeria and the collapse of privately owned airlines, show that the country is  better off when it has a strong national carrier. The reason Nigeria Airways collapsed was due to corruption  perpetrated by buccaneers masquerading as managers of the national carrier. The only way we can have a viable  new national carrier is by ensuring that it is managed efficiently by capable hands and is devoid of  corruption.

Load more