Arik Air’s huge investment in the nation’s aviation sector has been applauded by the Federal government.
The Minister of State for Air Transportation, Mr. Felix Hyat, gave the commendation on Tuesday, July 29, 2008, on the occasion of the signing ceremony of a N35 billion loan syndication agreement between Arik Air and a consortium of six financial institutions for the acquisition of five brand new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. The six financial institutions include Zenith Bank, Union Bank, Intercontinental Bank, Skye Bank, First Inland bank and Afribank.
Hyat said government would not sacrifice the interest of Nigeria to any foreign economy even as he promised that government would not turn its face when there was foul play by any of the foreign carriers.
The Minister was overwhelmed by what Arik Air is doing in restoring the confidence of the whole world in Nigerian aviation industry which had received a lot of bashing in the past.
He challenged the aviation parastatals, especially the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), to face the challenges of the growth of the aviation industry as being championed by Arik Air adding that the investment by the airline is just the beginning of “our great expectation”.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Managing Director of Arik Air, Mr. Michael McTighe, said the occasion was a proud moment not only for the airline but also for Nigeria.
“In over 18 months, Arik Air has evolved from a start-up airline to a major player in the Nigerian and West African arena”, McTighe stated.
The Managing Director said Arik Air has demonstrated its ability to source very innovative and competitive financing for acquiring five brand new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft through a sophisticated structure arranged by powerful national and regional banks.
According to him, the N35 billion facilities are part of several financing deals being negotiated by Arik Air this year, aggregating to nearly N500 billion.
Such deals, he says, “confirms our ability to facilitate aviation growth and therefore the development of Nigeria, while demonstrating our mission to acquire world class and brand new aircraft for the people of Nigeria. Our partnership with this consortium certainly demonstrates our regional and international aspirations to provide a spectrum of choice in terms of new destination, flexibility and value for money”
Arik Air’s fleet, McTighe disclosed, would grow to 32 by the end of the year with the delivery of two of the airline’s first brand-new B737-800 aircraft even as the airline would in the next couple of years require 45 new aircraft.
Arik Air Chairman, Sir Joseph Arumemi-Johnson, in his speech, said he was proud that after the initial hesitation, Nigerian banks have come to realize that they can grow the economy through the latest partnership with Arik Air.
He said Arik Air would change the game in the aviation industry when it starts its Lagos-London (Heathrow) route in November. According to him, the airline’s A340-500, which is expected in October for the commencement of the London operation, will have all the comfort the passengers want .
“We want to use the airline to promote our culture to the world. Airline business is the way to showcase the country to the world and we at Arik will do just that”, Sir Arumemi-Johnson stated.
The loan syndication signing ceremony which was held at the Arik Aviation Centre, Ikeja, Lagos, attracted chieftains from the banking and aviation sector as well as members of the diplomatic corp.