The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) has dismissed insinuations that it is planning to use the assets of Aero Contractors and Arik Air, two troubled airlines under its management, to establish a national carrier.
AMCON has also said it would publish names of recalcitrant debtors this week, noting that this will follow its earlier publication by way of advertisement calling on debtors to renegotiate their debts or face the consequences.
The Managing Director of AMCON, Mr. Ahmed Kuru made the clarifications in an interview with THISDAY recently, noting that it even made no sense to create a national carrier from a crisis-ridden airline.
He dismissed suggestions that the takeover of Aero and Arik was part of a plan to merge the two airlines and convert them to the national carrier.
Kuru said he was never invited “to discuss any plan to convert or merge the airlines’ assets for the purpose of establishing a national carrier.”
Kuru said: “Nigerians like conspiracy theories. We love conspiracy theories. If today AMCON is going to use Arik and Aero to create a national carrier, there will be any apology around it because the assets belong to AMCON.
“Such plans will be hidden and it will be in the interest of the organisation. However, there has never been any discussion – formally or informally – about converting those assets into a national carrier.
“Nobody has ever invited me or called me to talk about the idea of the national carrier or bringing AMCON’s assets to establish a national carrier. Number two, even if I had been called, I would have advised against it.
“You do not want to create a national carrier with all the problems you have in Arik and Aero. How can you set up a national carrier from crisis? AMCON is not part of any national carrier plans. It’s not even in the national interest to do that.”
The Minister of State, Aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika had said the proposed national airline for the country would be unveiled in December. Sirika disclosed this in a statement by the ministry’s Deputy Director, Media and Public Affairs, James Odaudu.
He said there “is no doubt that the issue of national carrier for Nigeria is very close to the hearts of both the government and the people, which is the reason it has taken the option of a Public Private Partnership with the belief that it was the only way to deliver a national carrier that would stand the test of time.”
But preparatory to the actualisation of the national carrier proposal, there have been speculations that Aero and Arik are being slated as the airlines whose assets the government would convert to achieve the purpose.
AMCON, however, insisted that it was not part of such arrangement, though confirming that its plan “to divest in Aero and Arik were in top gear.”
Specifically, Kuru pointed out: “For Aero, we have gone very far. We are almost concluding. For Arik, we’re almost 55 per cent (near completion). Like I always say, if the owner as of today comes to tell us, ‘OK, take this money,’ we’ll give consideration to that.
“We will not take over any business and give it to somebody that we know will just rubbish it. However, we believe that there are certain businesses based on the amount that the people will pay for those businesses, they will not play with it.
“Therefore, it is important to us that Arik and Aero survive because they are very strategic airlines. That is why we are ensuring that we get very good buyers – people that are strong in the industry; people that can add value to it. We have gone very far. For Aero, we have gone 90 per cent. For Arik, we are around 55 per cent.”
Meanwhile, AMCON said it would publish names of recalcitrant debtors this week, noting that the names of the debtors numbering 350 would be published in batches.
Kuru said: “We have done it before and we will still do it again. You will see it this week. We are going to publish the names again. Maybe not the 350 key people at the same time, but by installments.
“Already, last week we advertised, advising people to come and talk to us so we can have an understanding. But we are already compiling the lists and we will release the first batch this week, and we will continue to release them.
“As an organisation , we are not under any obligation to keep anybody’s exposure in secret. The only way we can keep it secret is if you come and negotiate with us, otherwise, we are going to publish it. Those who honour the invitation to come, won’t have their names published, but those who refuse to come will have their names published.”
Similarly, Kuru revealed that AMCON was currently proposing amendments to the provisions of its Act and planned to conclude the process before the end of the year. He explained that the amendment was expedient to add clauses necessary to accelerate its efforts at asset recovery and remove the ones impeding its ability to achieve targets.
“We had a retreat with the National Assembly and I can tell you they’ve been extremely supportive. They recognise the fact this is a national issue and as such, they are worried and they are working with us at every point.
“We have gone very far and, hopefully, before the end of this year, we would get the act amended, God willing. We’ve put in all the clauses that will help us in the last lap of the journey. I may not be here, but the journey must be completed.”