Aviation ministry denies Arik claim

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Threatens the airline with lawsuit

The ministry of aviation has denied allegations made by Arik Air that the Minister, Stella Adaeze Oduah demanded a 5 percent equity holding in Arik Airlines, saying the so-called equity demand was unfounded and diversionary.

It would be recalled that Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and other unions operating in the aviation sector had, on Thursday, grounded the operation of the airline earlier in the week, explaining the action was to get Arik and other debtor airlines to pay their debts.

But, Arik Air, in a statement, same day, announced the suspension of its flight operations due to what it described as the ?persistent hostility of the Ministry of Aviation, and FAAN management, which has culminated in the use of FAAN staff to stop Arik Air operations and lock in checked-in passengers in Lagos?.

The airline insisted that the issue ?bothers on personal interests, and not payment of bills; since FAAN has been collecting their charges in advance since 18 months now? alleging further that the ministry had demanded a 5 per cent equity in its commpany.

Joe Obi, the Special Adviser on Media attached to the Aviation Minister, in statement made available to Daily Times on Friday, described the allegation as ‘absurd, malicious and ultimately laughable’.

Insisting that the sole intent of this release is to put the records straight, the statement said: ?The first impulse is to totally ignore this groundless falsehood.

?The 5 percent equity story is without any foundation whatsoever. It is absurd, malicious and ultimately laughable. The Honourable Minister of Aviation could not have contemplated acquiring a stake in any airline, let alone Arik Air that is groaning from a crippling N85.4 billion debt overhang.

?The time is ripe for Arik Air to change its business module that ?thrives? on unprecedented accumulation of debts and liabilities. The futile attempt to impugn the integrity of the Aviation

?Minister by inferring a conflict of interest against her is at best diversionary. It should be obvious to the management of Arik Air that blackmail is not a panacea for a floundering enterprise.

The Minister has asked her lawyers to seek legal redress for this malicious allegation by Arik Air.

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