|photo credit: thenationonlineng.net|
Arik Air, Nigeria’s largest airline yesterday resumed full flight operations after a one day suspension of its domestic services following disruption by members of the Aviation union over debts allegedly owed to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN)
While apologising to the airline’s passengers especially those affected by the flight disruption, Arik Air debunked claims that it owed FAAN N12.8 billion maintaining that the agency has no proof to substantiate the figures it is claiming.
The Managing Director of Arik Air Mr. Chris Ndulue who briefed members of the media during a Press Conference held at the airlines Head Office in Lagos on Thursday April 21, 2016 disclosed that if the airline had prior knowledge of the action of the union members, they would have informed customers ahead of time.
Top Executive Management of Arik Air at the press briefing, maintained with documentary evidence that it had paid a total of N18.9 billion to FAAN since inception while FAAN who claims Arik is owing the agency N12.8 billion has confirmed receipt of N11.4 billion. It wondered how FAAN came up with such a ‘bogus’ figure.
Speaking at the headquarters of Arik Air, Chairman of the company, Sir Johnson Arumemi-Ikhide, accused FAAN of not adhering to the rules and regulations of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, describing the decision to resort to self-help in disrupting its operations as a violation of rule of law, considering the fact that the matter was in court.
Confirming the airline’s resumption of flight, the airline chief said what happened on Wednesday took the airline by surprise. He accused FAAN of frustrating amicable resolution in spite of the fact that the airline had paid N18.9 billion, which he said was acknowledged by the agency in a letter sent to them.
He said: “We have been paying our debts regularly to FAAN despite the fact that the airport landlord had some amount of money to pay to it, arising from the incident to its aircraft at the Calabar airport some few years ago.”
Arumemi-Ikhide also displayed a letter dated February 3, acknowledging the lodgement of N11.4 billion to the coffers of FAAN from the airline. He maintained that it had, since the commencement of operations in October 2007, paid N18.9 billion to the agency.
He declared that the airline was ready for reconciliation of the accounts, noting that FAAN had always frustrated reconciliation of the accounts, even when the immediate past Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Aviation, Hajia Binta Bello, set up a committee for that purpose.
He recalled that about two years ago, a Ministerial Committee on Debt Reconciliation was set up by the government, but lamented that in spite of the fact that the process was initiated by FAAN, the agency said it was not ready for reconciliation and asked for two weeks extension, which was granted.
Arik Air that since the matter is already before the court at the initiation of FAAN both parties should allow the courts decide whether or not Arik Air owes and what it owes if any.
According to the legal consultant of Arik Air ;Mr. Emeka Nwigwe “the issue of whether Arik Air is indebted or not to FAAN has been put before a competent court in a suit initiated by FAAN. “For FAAN to resort to self-help or by its staff is an affront on the Federal High Court and the Nigerian State.
“A situation whereby staffs of FAAN and union members turn themselves into debt collection agents, on behalf of the Federal Government is absurd,”
By : Chigozie Okereke