As AMCON advances negotiations to merge the two airlines

Troubled airline, Air Nigeria, will be drawing a fresh lease of life with the federal government?s plan to merge the company with Aero Contractors.

However, Aero is said to be wary of partnering with a company seen to have been ruined by its billionaire owner, Jimoh Ibrahim.

Merger plans of the two airline companies are at an advanced stage with the Asset management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) reviewing the assets and liabilities of Air Nigeria, sources have said.

Ibrahim announced the sacking of 800 of Air Nigeria?s staff last week, accusing the workers of disloyalty. The airline also suspended operations, effective September 10.

Ibrahim said the airline will bounce back in 12 months.

But the projection has drawn doubts with analysts pointing to the airline?s huge N35.5 billion debt profile to the United Bank for Africa (UBA), its major financier.

Officials, who did not want their names published, say UBA approached AMCON; the government?s agency empowered to ease off companies in bad debts, seeking a merger of Air Nigeria with Aero contractors.

Air Nigeria spokesperson, Sam Ogbogoro, could not be reached on his telephone on Monday.

An official of Aero said the company welcomed the partnership, although it was not informed of the decision by AMCON. However, Aero was guarded with the proposed deal as staff considered the ?mess? left behind by Ibrahim.

?We just got to know just like any other Nigerian on the pages of the newspaper,? she said. ?We know they?ll definitely take it from Jimoh Ibrahim once AMCON has stepped in.?

Asked whether the decision was welcomed by Aero contractors, the staff said Aero was only concerned about the financial and labour troubles sown by Ibrahim.

?There is anxiety because of the mess that Jimoh has brought in, but hopefully we?ll sort that out,? she said.

Ibrahim?s NICON group acquired the airline in 2010 after Virgin Nigeria, which ran the company since 2004, pulled out.

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