Arik Air management said on Thursday that it has paid N18.9 billion into the accounts of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), in excess of the N12.5 billion debt being claimed by the Authority, insisting that it is not in anyway indebted to it.
Giving the clarifications at Arik Air headquarters at Lagos airport, Sir Johnson Arumemi-Ikhide, chairman of the company, who joined its consultants to address a press conference, said as at February 3, 2016, FAAN acknowledged in a letter that it only received N11.4 billion.
He said all efforts to prevail on FAAN to reconcile the rest proved abortive as the Authority claimed remaining N7.5 billion could not be traced to any company.
He said the Authority eventually took the airline to court in 2015 claiming it was owing it (FAAN).
Arumemi-Ikhide, who described the unions’ action the airline as unhealthy for the sector, explained further that so many times, FAAN had refused to show up at a Senate committee on the issue about three times, adding that they (Arik), had always been ready to pay if truly it was owing.
“ A letter from FAAN signed by A.S Kolawole recognised N11.4 billion payment out of N18.9 billion, we told them to reconcile the remaining they could not, we are ready to obey because we are responsible Nigerians but we will resist arbitrariness, what happened on Wednesday where a group of people will take laws into their hands, is not too good for this sector.
“At a time, the issue came up under the permanent Secretary who said any claim that does not have invoice was null and void. We brought in consultants to explain our case and told them to give us clear figures on what we’ve paid and owed until they took us by surprise on Wednesday, the action was unfortunate, this cannot happen anywhere in the world, we apologise to our customers”, he said.
Also speaking, Emeka Wigwe from Babajide Goku (SAN) chambers, legal consultants to Arik Air, said FAAN in a suit with no FSC/CS/1558/2015, took the airline to court claiming indebtedness by Arik but was unable to satisfy the court on some issues raised but at that time, Arik could show that it had made payment in excess of N16 billion.
According to him, ‘at each point, there was a move for reconciliation by Arik Air but it seemed FAAN would not want to show up or have enough evidence. But Arik remains confident in the court of law and it outcome, as long as the matter is before the court of law, no party should take anticipatory action like FAAN did, we will gladly obey whatever the court says”, he said.
Earlier, Chris Ndulue, managing director of the airline explained that even when Arik was ready to hold meeting with FAAN management on Wednesday, it was only the union members that came while the police and State Security Service were represented.
He said they eventually spoke with the Minister of state for Aviation, Had Sirika, who promised to look into the whole issue.
The unions had on Wednesday, grounded the operations of the airline over alleged N12.5 billion.
By: Sade Williams