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Nigeria’s cowboy airline operators

Arik Air, Aero Contractors, Medview are all Nigerian airlines that anyone that has had the misfortune of flying with them could regale you with tales of woe.

Arik are currently in administration after being taken over by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) after running up debts of about $1.26bn locally and about $40m owed to foreign creditors.  This week Aero Contractors had to apologise to customers after a Lagos-bound aircraft from Port Harcourt was engulfed with smoke after take off.

Several unruly scenes between staff of these airlines and angry customers have gone viral on social media as AMCON claimed last week that Arik were cutting corners and gambling with passenger safety by operating without spare tyres and other necessary equipment.

A UK-based executive at an air services company that worked with Arik and Aero informed that the airlines owed his company millions of dollars for servicing their aircraft in London and in Nigeria.  The exec called Arik Chairman Johnson Arumemi-Ikhide “very greedy”.  He had his finger in many pies, including the oil industry and was worth billions of dollars, but couldn’t be bothered about honouring his debt obligations.

Johnson Arumemi-Ikhide

The air services company had to take legal action in the UK to prevent Arik from flying in order to recover their money.

The airline was established in 2006, taking over facilities belonging to the state-owned Nigeria Airways and benefited from government support under the administration of former president Goodluck Jonathan.  But it appears its luck ran out when Jonathan was defeated in the (s)election two years ago.

Airline industry insiders also claimed that Arumemi-Ikhide ran the company like it was his personal property.  With such an unsustainable business model, it was no surprise he ran it aground.  The real surprise is they averted crashes while flying close to the wind.

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