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By Lateef Lawal
Trade Unions and associations in the aviation industry have sent a ‘save our soul’ alert to the Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Fidelia Njeze to prevail on the management of Oceanic Bank Plc to give Aerocontractors airline soft landing in the servicing of the $200 million loan.
In addition, the workers’ front also noted that if the airline is allowed to stop operations due to the squeezing by Oceanic Bank on debt re-payment, many workers and professionals would be thrown into the growing unemployment market and the bank would not get paid at the end of the day, "because it is only when Aero is operating that it will make money to service the debt".
The unions making the plea in Lagos were the National Union of Air Transport Employees(NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria(ATSSSAN) and the National Association of Airline Pilots and Engineers(NAAPE). ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: An Airborne Plane
Speaking on behalf of the leadership of the three bodies, the General Secretary of NUATE, Comrade Gideon Ogbuji said the controversies recently generated between both parties was not in the interest of the industry.
He said on more than two occasions recently, flight operations of Aero were disrupted due to the freeze of the airline’s account by the bank which led to lack of fund for its operations, especially charter flights for oil companies in which the airline had to be penalized by paying $36,000 for breach of contract on each of the flight so cancelled.
He said, it would be a big blow for the industry if Aero which had successfully operated in Nigeria for the past 50 years was allowed to go down, adding that this was why all the labour unions/associations were pleading with Oceanic Bank to give the airline an elongated re-payment schedule as against the tight corner in which it has forced it.
On Monday, April 26, 2010, it was reported that Aero was locked in discussions with its bankers for some months now. It has now reached a point where it is difficult for Aero to operate on these terms. ( Continues below….. )
The dilemma centers on the allocation of historical debt. The management teams at Oceanic Bank and Aero have been in constant dialogue about this matter for the previous six months. However, they have been unable to agree on a resolution that will allow Aero to continue trading as a going concern.
Regrettably, Oceanic took unilateral decisions on the morning of Friday April 23, 2010, which have effectively prevented Aero from paying her suppliers and lessors [including Canadian Helicopter Company (CHC)].
Aero approached the Minster of Aviation, Mrs. Fidelia Njeze, the National Security Adviser, Lt Gen (rtd) Aliyu Mohammed, and the Director General of NCAA, Dr Harold Demuren, in the belief that they will intervene as arbitrating party between Aero and Oceanic. Aero, for its part, needs to complete the full cycle of turn-around that was started last year.
The company has new management with a new vision, and is in the process of bearing the fruits of financial success. “Despite the difficult situation that Aero finds itself in today, I am sure the strategic importance of Aero Contractors to the national economy will be appreciated and good sense will prevail all around. We have every confidence that Aero will be able to set itself on a good platform and we look forward to a bright future, serving a third of the Nigerian Oil & Gas industry and 1.5 million passengers each year.” CEO Shaf Syed was reported saying.
Lateef Lawal (NigerianAviationNews)
*Tags: Nigerians, FAAN, Airlines, Aviation, Loan Minister, Abuja, Lagos, Africa, Masterweb
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