Nigerian airline resolves crisis, resumes flights
African nation's largest airline had stopped flying Thursday in tussle with government.
The Associated Press
LAGOS, Nigeria — Nigeria's largest airline was to resume flying its domestic routes Sunday, the company's managing director said, after publicly announcing it would stop flying because of government corruption.
Arik Air Ltd. managing director Chris Ndulue offered a brief statement to journalists Saturday, only saying the company met with government officials in the nation's capital and had resolved "all issues" it had. Ndulue didn't discuss the air carrier's previous claim that Aviation Minister Stella Oduah had a personal and financial interest in seeing the airline destroyed.
"We are happy to resume operations," Ndulue said.
In a separate statement, secretary to the Nigerian government Anyim Pius Anyim said all complaints by both Arik Air and the Aviation Ministry had been resolved. He also said both parties wanted to apologize to those who rely on air travel in Africa's most populous nation.
"We use this opportunity to appeal to both parties to eschew every provocation that may have arisen as a result of this unfortunate misunderstanding," the statement read. "Accordingly, all the exchange of accusations and allegations are vitiated and so of no consequence."
Arik Air halted its domestic flights Thursday after it said federal workers raided its operation at Lagos' Murtala Muhammed International Airport. The government denied the claim, as well as Arik Air's assertion Oduah wanted to personally profit off the airline.
But by not publicly discussing the problems between the air carrier and the government, the spat has led to further concerns about Nigeria's aviation industry. The industry has been in turmoil since a jetliner crashed in June before landing in Lagos, killing more than 160 people.
Arik Air, a private firm born out of the pieces of country's former national airline, had grown into a major international air carrier in West Africa over the last few years, with direct flights to Johannesburg, London and New York. The airline has more than 20 aircraft in its fleet and ordered more than a dozen new planes. It also provided more flights domestically than any other carrier in Nigeria, a nation of more than 160 million people. By halting its domestic flights, Arik Air left only three airlines flying in the country that were unable to meet with the nation's demand.
However, financial concerns still hover around the aviation industry. Nigeria's Central Bank has ordered banks to stop giving loans to both Arik Air and its competitor Aero Contractors Co. of Nigeria Ltd. over debts in the hundreds of millions of dollars.