FG May Liquidate Nigeria Airways Today|
By Samuel Famakinwa
The Federal Government may today announce that Nigeria Airways Limited has been officially liquidated. The move is to preempt attempts by creditors to seize its assets. It will also enable the government to launch its new natioanl carrier, NigeriaGlobal.
Minister of Aviation, Dr. Kema Chikwe, who is scheduled to address newsmen today, THISDAY gathered, is also heading a team set up to verify all local and foreign debts of the embattled airline.
Specifically, it was gathered that the liquidation move was to pre-empt the likely outcome of the London High Court of Justice hearing tomorrow on the request by creditors that the court apply the Insolvency Act of 1986 to wind up the operations of the airline in London as a result of its indebtedness.
Sources say the move by the government is necessary to ensure that debtors do not take possession of the ailing airline's assets to offset their debts.
On the need to verify Nigeria Airways debts, sources close to the Aviation ministry disclosed that the Federal Government may refuse to pay the $10 million debt which the airline owes Air Atlanta.
The government's position on the Air Atlanta's debt was based on the fact that the former Managing Director of the Airline, Mr. Jonathan Jiya, under whose tenure as Nigeria Airways struck the deal with Air Atlanta denied knowledge when the case was brought up at the recent public hearing organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation on the airlines debt.
Chikwe when contacted yesterday evening, was not forthcoming with the true position of things as she told THISDAY to "wait till tomorrow (today) when I will be addressing a press conference to ask the question".
"You know that government does not talk anyhow. We are seeking legal advice on these issues. We are consulting and we hope to do what is best for the country", she said.
THISDAY had yesterday exclusively reported that the High Court of Justice in London may apply the insolvency act of 1986, to wind up the operations of Nigeria Airways Limited in London following the huge debt incurred by the airline which it has refused to offset.
The petition for the winding up will be heard at the Royal Court of Justice, Strand, London WC2R 1LB tomorrow at 10.30am. The solicitor to the petitioners is Phillip Reid of Her Majesty's Inland Revenue Service.
THISDAY reliably gathered from London that the airline is owing the British Airports Authority (BAA), the sum of œ156,835.00, Heathrow Park Hotel œ75,000.00, Her Majesty's Inland Revenue Service œ217,415.57, Her Majesty's Custom Service œ135,000.00 and the Staff of London Station outstanding salaries totaled at about œ683,844.82.
The embattled airline is also indebted to ASECNA to the tune of $1 million, National Oil and Chemical Marketing Company (Now ConOil Plc) $438,008.00 and Air Atlanta $10 million.
The district manager of Nigeria Airways Limited in London, Mr. I.T Aminu in a letter to the Managing Director of Nigeria Airways dated March 6 titled "Petition to wind - up Nigeria Airways Limited" explained that he received the insolvency petition to commence winding up of Nigeria Airways in the United Kingdom by Her majesty Inland Revenue Department. He urged the Managing Director to act fast to save the airline from going under.
Aminu's letter also disclosed that besides the insolvency petition, ASECNA, one of the major creditors of the airline, had sought the winding up of Nigeria Airways at the same court. The case would come up March 11.
John Long, Finance Director, BAA in a letter to the District Manager of NAL in London, is worried that "it is clear that despite our endeavours to have this matter taken seriously by your Head office, the seriousness of this situation is clearly not understood in Nigeria. I implore you to as a matter of real urgency bring this matter to the attention of Mr. Okunnuga (the new Managing Director) to settle all outstanding amounts due to the Heathrow Airports Limited which now amounts to œ208,694,31.
In Nigeria, the Aviation Minister is also under pressure from Corporate Recoveries Limited, an insolvency consultancy firm, over the indebtedness of Nigeria Airways to National Oil and Chemical Marketing Company (now Conoil).
The pressures are coming at a time when the Federal Govern-ment has commenced moves to float a new national carrier Nigerianglobal under an arrangement between Airbus and Triaton AG of Switzerland. The new airline which is billed to commence operations next week has already secured an Air Operators License (AOL). Nigeria Airways is also expected to surrender only 64 Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) for Nigerianglobal unlike the botched Airwing/ Nigeria Airways deal where the assets of the national carrier were to be converted into shares.