Hundreds of passengers stranded as Aviation Unions shut down Arik operations
The Unions disrupted flights schedule for the day as stranded passengers were not notified by the management of Arik about the situation before they got to the airport.
The Unions under the aegis of the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and National Union of Pensioners (NUP) were said to have been curtailed by the Police to avoid escalation of the protest.
Speaking on the protest, Vice Chairman, National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Comrade Idowu Adesola said that the Airline has refused to pay its N12.5 billion debt owed to Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
Comrade Adesola said the only condition Arik would be allowed to operate is if it pays N7 billion with an undertaken that it would balance at a mutually agreed date.
He said: “It is all about Arik Air and all other debtors owing FAAN at the detriment of FAAN because FAAN had to have its revenue coming in by making all the necessary things available for aviation stakeholders and if those provisions are made, they need to pay for what they are utilising.
“Now Arik Air is owing FAAN N12.5 billion, it was supposed to be N5.8 billion but they denied N3.4 billion on invoice rating. Now that it is N12.5 billion, they are not ready to pay and they are telling everybody that they are even bigger than the government, it is not just FAAN alone, they owe FAAN, NCAA and even NAMA and they owe some other people including their workers, they just paid their March salary recently which is not too good for somebody who has worked. So they believe that if Buhari is changing things, they are not ready to go along with Buhari to change things.
“We as workers we want to help Buhari to make changes for things to progress. In fact, I want to tell you that the bay out there, they (Arik Air) are not paying for it which is meant for National Carrier and presidency is not even looking into it, we are just talking about landing and parking charges as well as other facilities, if we are to talk of the bayn the money would have been more than that, they are not ready to do anything, they are flying free, they are landing free and they say if we come to them we will be crushed but God is with us and we will defeat and prevail over Arik Air.
“The negotiation is still on-going but if they can put down N7billion, we will allow them to operate with conditions that as soon are they going to pay up so that Buhari change and TSA matters can be put in place which will also help workers in FAAN.”
However, in its reaction to the incident, Arik PR & Communications Manager, Mr. Adebanji Ola, described the alleged indebtedness as "spurious" and "unsubstantiated claim."
“The action by the workers’ union is connected with the long-standing and unsubstantiated claim by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) of spurious indebtedness of the airline to the agency which is now before a Federal High Court in Lagos at the instance of FAAN," Ola said.
“For several months, the management of Arik Air and FAAN have been meeting to reconcile payment accounts between the two institutions. The reconciliation process is still ongoing until the latest actions by the union.
“This is not the first time that FAAN workers’ union will be taking the laws into their hands by disrupting operations of Arik Air.
“The current situation is deeply out of control of Arik Air and the management of the airline has been compelled to suspend all domestic operations for today.
While apologising to the airline passengers, he noted that Arik's operations would remain suspended until the issues with FAAN and other aviation agencies has been amicably resolved.
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