…Airline says it has paid N18.9b wonders where N12.5b is from
…Our side of this sad incident—Arumemi-Ikhide
Every story has two sides and the chairman of Arik Air, Sir Johnson Arumemi-Ikhide and his management team were on hand this afternoon to tell their side of the alleged N12.5billion debt the airline incurred according to the unions.
The Arik Chairman who defended his organisation with documents signed at either end and made available to Nigerianflightdeck, according to the documents, Arik Air has paid the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) a total of N18.9 billion from inception of operation till date and that FAAN on February 12, 2016 acknowledged in its letter to the airline that it had received the payment of N11.4 billion from Arik.
The visibly sad Sir Arumemi-Ikhide frowned at the way the unions took the airlines by surprise while alleging that FAAN had been frustrating the reconciliation process initiated by both the court and past Aviation Ministers.
Aviation unions, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) yesterday shut down Arik operations alleging that the airline owed N12.5 billion.
“We have paid N18.9billion and we are saying that we need to reconcile, FAAN was the one that took us to court and are the ones that are not respecting court Judgment. And anytime we want to reconcile these debts and get to the bottom of this matter once and for all, they (FAAN) become evasive.”
“We are prepared to pay for services rendered to us but we are not going to be bullied into false payment. And when they feel like they result in these intimidations. They took us to court and said they will impound our aircraft later rescinded but what happened yesterday was quite unfortunate, it is not good for aviation and not good for Nigerian industries.”
This statement was evidenced in letter dated February 3, 2016 with reference Our Ref: FAAN/HQ/GM/CCR and signed by one A. S Kolawole, General Manager Credit Control where FAAN admitted to receiving N11,420,997,848.27.
Sir Arumemi—Ikhide also said that FAAN said it received certain amount but could not ascertain where the money was from, a situation the Arik Air Chairman described as funny stating that they had written to FAAN to get their statements so they can ascertain where the money came from if not from Arik.
Speaking further, the Chairman recalled how efforts were made by, Senate Committee on Aviation, headed by Senator Hope Uzodima, former Aviation Minister, Mrs Stella Oduah and former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Aviation, Mrs Binta Bello.
He added that while the matter was there, FAAN allegedly asked the committee to give it two weeks, adding that after that it asked for four weeks and finally stopped coming.
He said,” FAAN took us to the committee two years ago. FAAN, who initiated the moves to reconcile the accounts are not ready for reconciliation. We have been reminding them that we want to reconcile the account so that we can move forward.”
The Chairman, who said that he was not happy of what was going on, stated that when both parties met with the former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Aviation, Mrs Binta Bello, she told them that any claim or claims not backed with documentary evidence should be considered null and void.
Also speaking, the Managing Director of Arik Air, Mr Chris Ndulue, said that the airline had resumed flight operations after yesterday’s disruption of Arik’s operation by aviation unions, which he described as unfortunate.
He stated that Arik Air had meeting with unions and that SSS and police were equally present at the meeting but that he was expecting to see FAAN management but that they were nowhere to be found.
He added that at the meeting the parties agreed that they should reconcile the account and that other outstanding payment should equally be addressed.
Ndulue said, ”when the revenue drive was ongoing and our operations were grounded, we tried to reach the management of FAAN via phone calls and they did not respond and even text messages and up till now we are speaking they have not responded”
He was also visibly apprehensive that the unions were always going after Arik without provocation while disregarding court orders that they initiated. “It is curious, why is it only Arik, others are owing even some foreign airlines but why Arik? The figures they bandy about sometimes its N7b or N11b or like yesterday N12.5b.”
On his part, a Lawyer, Emeka Nwigwe, from Babajide Goku Chamber, who is the legal consultant, declared that what the unions did yesterday was an affront on the Federal High Court and the state, adding that if FAAN does not want the court to resolve the issue, the agency should tell the court.
In his words, “It is an affront on the Federal High Court and the state .A situation where staff whether individual or group decides to turn themselves into debtor collecting agency is absurd”.
He continued, “FAAN has no documents to back their claims, they simply result to intimidation. The case is in court. FAAN’S action is contemptuous. The law is very clear; no party should take anticipatory action when a case is pending
He informed that FAAN took the matter to court in 2015 but that it seemed FAAN was not able to satisfy the court why Arik’s airplanes should be arrested.