The Federal Government has taken over Arik Airline, which has been experiencing difficulties in recent times.
According to the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), the decision to intervene “clearly underscores the government’s commitment to instilling sanity in the country’s aviation sector and prevent a major catastrophe.
The airline will now be managed by Roy Ukpebo Ilegbodu, an aviation expert, under Mr Oluseye Opasanya, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika expressed the belief that the development will bring about stability in the airline.
“We believe that this appointment is timely and will stabilize the operations of the airline. This will enhance the long term economic value of Arik Air and revitalize the airline’s ailing operations as well as sustain safety standards, in view of Arik Air’s pivotal role in the Nigerian aviation sector.”
The Minister further pledged that the Federal Ministry of Aviation would support the new management of the strategic carrier adding that all necessary steps have been taken to ensure that there would be no undue disruption on Arik’s regular business operations or activities of other stakeholders, on account of the recent changes its leadership and management.
In the same vein, Capt. Ilegbodu, under the receivership of Opasanya, has also assured both staff of the troubled airline and all other stakeholders that his appointment at Arik would among other objectives enhance the value of Arik, improve customer experience, and sustain the safety, reliable and secure operational history of the airline before all those were eroded.
An Aviation Expert, Chris Aligbe, has encouraged the Federal Government of Nigeria not to bow to pressures from stakeholders in the aviation industry to install a professional as the new minister as professionals usually do not possess the needed qualities to bring progress to the sector.
Speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Aligbe discredited agitations by industry practitioners who have demanded for a fellow professional to lead the aviation sector.
According to him, “the minister’s position is not a position for a professional” while the different agencies should be led by professionals.
He gave reasons for his position, insisting that “professionals never think outside the box. They are strict on their professional codes. If they are pilots, the first thing they are thinking about is the aircraft and the cockpit mentality. They don’t look at aviation as business. Aviation today is business all-through and through.”
“When you have a professional that cannot think outside the box, the problem comes. He restricts himself to that place and we won’t move.”
He attributed the stagnation experienced in the sector in past years to the leadership of professionals who were not business oriented and commended the former minister, Stella Oduah, for turning the aviation sector around.
He stated that the aviation industry would usually reject a minister who is not a professional as they had rejected the former minister, Stella Oduah. “When she came, the industry rose up, saying, ‘This is not a professional. Take her away’.”
He said Oduah had created a road map which fitted into the Jonathan’s transformation agenda. “She has opened up the industry so tremendously that my worry today is, what will happen to what she has put on ground before leaving?”
He further expressed fears on the sustainability of the projects commissioned by the former minister, especially cargo terminals being built in 16 states.
“What she brought in was letting us know that aviation is business,” he said, averring that previous ministers lacked business acumen.
He stressed the need for the sector to increase non-aeronautical revenue and decrease the aeronautical revenue charges so that more airlines can come into the country to grow the industry.
On the issue of passenger handling, Aligbe said the airlines were responsible for it. He also stressed the need for regulatory bodies to be up and doing in terms of regulation implementation.
“There are many ways of cutting corners,” he said. “If a pilot is supposed to fly for only eight hours a day and you make him fly nine or 10 hours, you are cutting corners because it means you don’t have another pilot to replace him, to meet the requirement. “Some of the airlines are not observing the crew roster,” he said.
He added that the recent plane crashes involving Dana and Associated Airlines had to do with human fault and not as a result of technical problems.
He opined that the sharp practice was hidden from the regulatory agencies. “Airlines tell a lot of lies to NCAA. When you talk about safety, equipment can be okay but the individuals and processes will not. In this country, we should move our focus to the airlines and to the human beings who are operating them.”
On the ministerial screening, Aligbe said portfolios should be attached to ministerial nominees before they are screened so as to set the proper standards for the screening process. “That would be the best thing to do in this country.”
“It will give the Senate enough time and opportunity to screen people properly for the posts they are going to occupy.”
“If people know what position anybody would occupy, then the appropriate questions will be asked,” he said.