Aviation workers ground Arik over alleged N12.5b debt
Workers in the aviation industry under the umbrella of the National Union of Employees (NUATE) and Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) yesterday grounded operations at the Lagos headquarters of Arik Air over a N12.5 billion debt allegedly owed the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
The development led to abrupt cancellation of flights with stranded passengers flocking the Murtala Muhammed Airport General Aviation Terminal (GAT) Terminal 1.
As early as 6:30 a.m. yesterday, the angry workers, chanting solidarity songs, were seen displaying placards with various inscription like: ‘If Arik Air alone is owing FAAN N12.5 billion how does it want FAAN to survive?’, ‘Arik pay your debt, enough is enough’, ‘Arik Air Must pay its debt to FAAN for peace to reign, Arik Pay Your 12.4 billion Debt! FAAN can no longer pay salaries, pension, staff claims due to your debt!! Debtors pay all you owe FAAN now!!! Arik if you can’t pay don’t fly!!! Arik pay your debt 12.5billon is too much”.
Commenting on the incident, ATSSSAN president, Comrade Benjamin Okewu, said the unions and FAAN workers had not embarked on industrial action against the airline, but only withdrew the services they render to the airline as a result of the ‘massive debts.’
Also speaking, NUATE’s acting General Secretary, Comrade Olayinka Abioye, said “we are engaged in picketing exercise against Arik Air over its indebtedness to FAAN in the sum of N12.5 billion”.
In a swift reaction, the airline in a statement by its spokesman, Adebanji Ola, alleged that “FAAN workers’ union on Wednesday morning blocked the operations of Arik Air at the General Aviation Terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos. Workers of the airline were prevented from gaining access to their duty posts, thereby disrupting the day’s operations.
“The action by the workers’ union is connected with the long-standing and unsubstantiated claim by FAAN of spurious indebtedness of the airline to the agency which is now before a Federal High Court in Lagos at the instance of FAAN”.
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