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Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airline, Tewolde Gebremariam, has stated that his airline may pull out of the deal to revive Nigerian troubled airline, Arik Air. He said that lack of cooperation by Nigerian government was putting the deal in jeopardy.
Speaking to Woleshadare.net in Accra, Ghana, at the BBC Africa Debate on ills affecting the African aviation sector, Gebremariam advised government to begin the process of starting another airline than invest in the airline.
Gebremariam further stated that the carrier applied restraints after government did not follow up again on the agreement his firm had to help revive the ailing carrier.
He stated that Ethiopian Airways did not want to be caught in the web of confusion that could lead to the seizure of Arik’s airplanes by creditors.
The airline, aside N500 billion debts to Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), owes International Air Transport Association (IATA) $78 million.
He disclosed that lack of legal framework from the government for the turnaround of Arik equally affected Ethiopian Airline from venturing into the deal.
He hinted that the Nigerian government had contacted Ethiopian because of its reputation as the most prosperous airline in the continent to rescue the Nigerian flag carrier, but lamented that they waited for the contract to be signed, including the legal framework to protect his airline from litigation, which, he stated was not forthcoming.
His words: “We got the court papers, which would have protected us against litigation, but lack of contract delayed the take-off of the project. We waited for government to sign the papers, but they did not show up. We requested for court papers which they gave us.”
The Federal Government has not yet decided on what to do with Arik Air after AMCON took over the carrier early this year over compounding debts.
The Chief Executive Officer of Arik, Captain Roy Ilegbodu, recently told the media that AMCON had injected N1.9 billion to stabilise the carrier.
The Ethiopian Airline boss backed African nations like Nigeria and Ghana and others that are at the verge of setting up their national airlines.
He said he would support full ownership structure by government devoid of interference, but with strong management to run the carriers.
He posited that setting them up on Public Private Partnership (PPP) would not be the best because of proper funding that the airlines would need at inception, which can only be provided by government.
He cited the example of China where government is fully running four big airlines; Air China, set up in 1988; China Eastern Airline, founded in 1988; China Southern Airlines, founded also in 1988 and Hainan Airlines Co., Ltd founded in 1989.
Nigeria and some African nations are bracing up for the resuscitation or creating new national airlines for their countries.
While the government of Nigeria had set up an advisory committee to fashion plans for a new national airline, the Ghanaian Government has set 2019 as deadline for the take-off of its new national airline.