Dele Ore, immediate past president of the aviation round table (ART), has alleged that under former President Goodluck Jonathan, Johnson Arumeni-Ikhide, chairman of Arik Air, depended on federal protection to hide his shortcomings.
Ore said Nigerians were waiting for the KPMG report that would help the government take appropriate action against Arumeni-Ikhide for “deliberately leading the airline to its present pitiable state”.
He said it would be appropriate to prosecute him to serve as a deterrent to other business men.
“Arumeni-Ikhide previously depended on federal protection, which some us knew would be short-lived as it has eventually played-out with change of government,” he said.
“With such huge debt profile no right-thinking government would continue to cover it up, which was why the government ordered Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to step in the fleet of 30 aircraft was fast disappearing among other discoveries.”
Corroborating Ore’s statement, Sina Akinfenwa, managing director, Merchant Express Cargo Airlines Limited, said the airline collected aviation intervention fund but frittered it away.
“I want Nigerians to ask the former managers of Arik what happened to that fund. At that time they collected the intervention fund, they claimed it was meant to bail out the airlines so what happened to the money?” he asked.
“If it is gone should that government pump in another fund without asking questions? We are talking about billions of naira the government injected into Arik and other operators.
“Arik’s problem is primarily man made because they were not doing the right thing. If you are doing the right thing, government will be willing to encourage you, but as it is now, how do you expect government to support you when you owe the same government so much money? Be that as it may, the essence of business is that you are credit worthy. You cannot ignore your creditors, which Arik was notorious for.”
AMCON has put the total indebtedness of the airline at N387 billion, including the elapsed insurance policy which was estimated at 418, 893, 067.97 as arrears of unpaid premium, N4.5 billion being outstanding pension remittance; Lufthansa Technik Group, the company responsible for the maintenance of Arik’s airplanes is owed 31 million euros; Zenith and Access Banks are owed N28 billion and N9 billion respectively.
Other debtors include hotels, travel solution provider, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and tax consultants.
Efforts made by TheCable to reach Ola Adebanji, spokesman of the airline, proved abortive as he did not pick calls or respond to text messages.