Mr. Joseph Arumemi-Ikhide, Chairman of Arik Airlines, on Wednesday called on the Federal Government to overhaul the nation’s aviation sector.
Making the call On Wednesday at the 7th anniversary and unveiling of the firm’s new aircraft, an A330-200 Airbus, at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos Arumemi-Ikhide commended the remodelling of some airports in the country, but urged the government to expand more of the terminals.
The sector has come under close scrutiny since October 3, 2013 when an Associated Airline plane crashed shortly after take off from the Lagos Airport, killing 13 people. Many have blamed the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, for the troubles within the industry, accusing her of focusing on renovation of the airports rather that on safety.
“Talking about infrastructure in the industry, some airports have changed. We have seen improvement in some areas,” he said.
“We expect the airports will be fenced to stem cases of stowaways. We hope more infrastructure will be put into the terminals, particularly the conveyor belt at the international wing,” he stated.
He said that the Federal Government had not approached the airline for the purpose of setting up a national carrier.
He also said: “I do not think that any government runs an airline in this 21st century. We have not been told that government wants to take over Arik.
“If government wants to take over our airline, they (government) should talk to our shareholders and it is left to the government whether they want a national carrier or not.
“We expect competition will better the business. We expect some stronger airlines to come up and strengthen the sector,” he said.
Arumemi-Ikhide urged Nigerians to invest in the aviation business, adding that Arik should be seen as a role model in the industry.
He denied the allegation that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had carried out an audit exercise of the airline.
According to him, Arik has trained 16 cadet pilots at the cost of 2 million U.S. dollars (more than N310 million) within its seven years of existence.
His words: “We have also trained over 18 female pilots and 60 ab-initio pilots at a cost of 1.5 million pounds (about N330 million).
“We have created over 2,500 direct jobs for Nigerians and carried 13 million passengers in seven years,” he added.