- AMCON Scales Down Arik’s Operations
Following its take over of Arik Air over two weeks ago, the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) has scaled down the flight operations of Nigeria’s premier carrier to less than 30 per cent of the its capacity.
However, AMCON, in a statement yesterday, said public confidence in the airline was gradually returning and commercial banks more willing to engage with Arik Air.
But AMCON’s statement contradicts reality. When a reporter visited the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos yesterday at 11.30 a.m., all the check-in counters of the once rowdy terminal were empty and totally bereft of passengers.
Instead, Arik ground staff were seen at their desks, waiting to attend to anyone willing to travel with the airline.
The airline, which at peak periods operated 120 flights a day, now operates about 15 flights daily with very low load factors, as passengers continue to shun the airline since the intervention by AMCON.
Also, it was learnt that of 28 operating aircraft in the airline’s fleet, only eight are now in operation comprising the two Bombardier CRJ 900s, one Bombardier Q400, and five Boeing 737s.
The Q400 is in a dedicated service with Chevron, effectively leaving the airline with seven operating aircraft for commercial flights.
This has forced Arik to cut back its domestic and regional operations, just as the airline suspended its international service immediately AMCON changed its management.
It was also gathered that international financiers and other creditors of the airline have concluded plans to sue the federal government after 30 days of AMCON’s intervention in the airline.
A source with the airline said that the creditors are consulting their lawyers to collectively file a class action suit against the government for the airline’s failure to honour its international obligations.
Inside sources further maintained that Arik’s workers who were owed two months salaries – December and January – before AMCON took over the management of the company on February 8, were only paid their January salaries.
AMCON, however, has maintained that the airline had a backlog of unpaid salaries of seven months when it took over two weeks ago.
According to some of the workers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, AMCON informed them that the December salaries should have been paid by the former management before it took over the company, which the corporation is currently auditing.
Also, cabin crew personnel whose November flight allowances were supposed to have been paid with the December basic salary, said they had lost hope that the money would ever be paid, now that AMCON is insisting that the former management should pay the December salaries.
“We were actually owed two months salaries before AMCON took over. I know that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) insisted that Arik must pay all of us our outstanding salaries in December, which the airline did after the labour strike. So it was the December and January salaries that were owed us,” an official of the airline said.
Many of the workers said even before AMCON took over, passenger traffic was already dropping because of cancelled and delayed flights. The situation only got worse with AMCON’s intervention, they added.
“AMCON has not been able to restore passenger confidence and because we have scaled down our flights, passengers now choose other airlines.
“Yesterday (Saturday), we operated to Benin from Lagos with only 18 passengers going and on the return leg. It is only the Port Harcourt service that still has a reasonable number of passengers,” one Arik official volunteered.
Also, since the take over of the airline and the cancellation of most of its regional flights, Nigeria has lost its dominance on the West coast and other African routes to Asky, AWA and the Cote d’Ivorian national carrier.
Arik was the only Nigerian airline that operated to Dakar, Abidjan, Luanda and Libreville.
Since the intervention by AMCON, it has stopped operating to most of these destinations.
The airline used to operate six flights to Accra from Abuja and Lagos, but the flights have been scaled down to two since AMCON stepped in.
According to sources in Arik, it is now uncertain if the airline will continue to operate on any of these destinations in the West coast.
“What AMCON has done is that it has cut back flights because of inadequate supply of fuel and equipment, but all the flights that it still operates are on time.
“So it has restored on time flight services, but only 30 per cent of the flights or less are still operating.
“Before their take over, Arik flights were characterised by delays and cancellations. It is really tough for AMCON to effectively manage the airline.
“We know that it will be difficult to generate the kind of revenue needed to pay overheads, salaries and still have operational funds with the scaled down services,” the Arik official said.
However, AMCON said yesterday that public confidence was gradually returning to Arik Air, two weeks after it took over the airline.
AMCON made the claim in a statement signed by its spokesperson, Jude Nwauzor, reported the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Nwauzor said the new management, when the airline was taken over, was confronted with a barrage of challenges but has surmounted the problems, adding that the new team has been stabilising the airline’s operations with the few aircraft left in the fleet.
AMCON said, unlike what obtained before the take over, average On-Time-Performance (OTP) of Arik Air to different destinations had improved.
The corporation also claimed that Nigerian banks, which had turned their backs on Arik, were now cooperative and ready to support the new management.
According to the spokesperson, engagements with international and local creditors had also been successful, while discussions with critical service providers and industry stakeholders had yielded the much desired results.
“Arik has also paid the insurance premium, which was on the verge of expiring and commenced the payment of outstanding salaries, which is a great morale booster for staff.
“Arik is also in discussions with different creditors and stakeholders to recall a good number of its aircraft as soon as possible, which will increase the number of daily flights,” he said.
The corporation said a good number of passengers affected by the suspension of flights to some routes had been refunded, adding that efforts were in the works to reach out to those yet to get their refunds.
Nwauzor noted that with the positive turn of events in the airline since its take over, customers of Arik, especially from corporate circles, were gradually returning.
AMCON added that efforts aimed at improving performance within a short period had translated to a stable and professional management for the airline.
In this respect, AMCON quoted the new management as saying that efforts at reviving the airline were boosted by the fact that Arik has an unparalleled safety record that “speaks for itself in the history of aviation in the country”.
AMCON said it had also held a series of fruitful engagements and struck agreements with major suppliers of aviation fuel for regular supply to Arik to guarantee regular flights.
Samsung, Vision Care Begin Fresh CSR Activities, Earmark 12,000 Masks for Nigeria
Samsung Heavy Industries Nigeria Limited (SHIN) and Vision Care, an international relief organization dedicated to the prevention of blindness, have launched fresh Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative to help Nigeria mitigate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.
Vision Care is a member of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), and participant of ‘VISION 2020’, a global initiative of the IAPB and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Vision Care has since conducted more than 25 Vision Eye Camps yearly and has grown into an international non-profit organisation serving 38 countries throughout Asia, Africa and Central-South America.
Since 2015, SHIN has worked with Vision Care in the yearly Eye Camp as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to provide free cataract surgeries to Nigerians who cannot afford the payment. SHIN has been sponsoring the eye surgeries of Nigerians on a yearly basis.
In 2019, SHIN sponsored the eye surgeries of at least 115 Nigerian patients and 224 outward patients as part of its CSR in Nigeria.
Since it started the programme, SHIN has sponsored the eye surgeries of 572 Nigerian patients, 1,593 outward patients and has also donated glasses to 99 patients.
Due to outbreak of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the yearly Eye Camp for 2021 had been called off to adhere to Federal Government’s measures in response to the virus.
Consequently, SHIN and Vision Care came up with a fresh CSR initiative this year to donate 496 bags of rice (25kg) and 12,000 reusable face masks to three states in the country to fulfill their commitment of contributing to the society.
The items will be delivered later this month.
The three states that will benefit from the donation are Lagos, Kano and Bayelsa states.
Out of the 496 bags of rice, and 12,000 facemasks, Lagos will receive 96 bags of rice and 200 masks.
SHIN also stated that Kano State will receive 200 bags of rice and 5,000 masks, while Bayelsa State will get 200 bags and 5,000 masks.
“This is an additional CSR activity from SHI in addition to SHIN’s donation of 5,000 COVID-19 test kits from Korea. The washable masks that the head office has purchased from Korea are certified to retain its effectiveness against COVID-19 transmission for up to 50 washes,” SHIN said in a statement.
Senate Summons NICON, AIICO, Others Over N17.4bn Pension Remittances
The Senate Public Accounts Committee has summoned the management of the NICON Insurance Plc, AIICO Insurance and other insurance companies over their alleged failure to remit N17.4bn pension fund to the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate.
The Senate hinged the summon on the 2016 report of the Auditor-General for the Federation which unraveled the alleged non-remittance of N17.4bn pension fund to PTAD.
Appearing before the panel on Monday, the Executive Secretary of PTAD, Dr Chioma Ejikeme, informed the lawmakers that PTAD took over the assets and liabilities of the defunct pension offices without a formal handing over.
She said, “On taking over, the directorate wrote all underwriters to make returns and remit whatever amount that was in their custody into a CBN dedicated account.
“Some of the underwriters responded to the request while some did not.
“The bank certificate of balances, accounting statements, three years financial statements and policy files requested by the federal auditor were not handed over to PTAD at the time of consolidation.
“It is worthy to note that we discovered that N17.4bn which comprised of cash, securities and properties from the nine insurance underwriters was unremitted as a result of the letter PTAD sent to them.
“These figures represent the claims by the underwriters with regards to their indebtedness.
“In order to ascertain the true position of legacy funds in custody of underwriters, the directorate appointed a consultant in 2018 who carried out forensic audit of nine out the 12 insurance underwriters and produced a final report on the recovery of the legacy funds and assets for PTAD.”
Sterling Homes Plans To Reduce Housing Deficit
Sterling Homes Limited has said it is committed to working with the government through private public partnership to reduce housing deficit in all the geo-political zones in the country.
The Managing Director, Mr Kunle Adeyemi, said this during an event on the company’s rebranding organised as part of its 10th year anniversary in Lagos on Friday.
During the event, the company while expressing commitment to excellence and customer satisfaction, unveiled its new logo with colours to define its mission and objections.
“We want to be present in all the six geo-political zones on Nigeria by providing affordable luxury homes, excellent torch. So for us, there is a need for us to rebrand and have a new direction and vision.
“We want to partner with the government on the present housing deficit; we want to embrace a public, private partnership with the government to reduce the deficit in every geo-political zone.”
The managing director said that one of its unique selling points was its after sales services which was top notch.
He said it ensured that its customers were taken through the journey of actualising their dreams of becoming home owners.
While noting that everyone deserved to have a comfortable home despite the economic situation, he said it had designed a structure payment plan with zero interest in some cases to help intending home owners.
He said it also had provisions for high breed options and developing areas to accommodate various income levels.
Before the end of the year, he said, Sterling Homes would be establishing new presence and projects in other regions.
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