Simon Ateba/Aviation correspondent
Aero Contractors, Nigeria’s second biggest airline, announced on Sunday night that its Managing Director, Captain Akin George, had resigned and that he has been replaced by Mr. Obaro Ibru, the airline’s Deputy Managing Director.
P.M.NEWS had reported last week that George might have been sacked by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON, which took over the airline months ago because of huge debts to the banks.
The airline however said in a statement today that George resigned following the commencement of a restructuring exercise initiated by AMCON.
“This is the beginning of a restructuring exercise that will make the airline slimmer and stronger with the aim of making it more competitive. Capt. George has served Aero for 24 years in various capacities, Aero said.
Chairman of the board, Mr. Funsho Kupolokun was quoted in the statement as saying: “The board accepts the resignation of Capt. George and appreciate the services he has rendered to this airline over the last two decades. We wish him the best in his future endeavour”.
The airline said that Ibru, the Acting Managing Director, comes with extensive experience in banking and aviation industry ranging from Aviation Project Management, Consumer Banking Product Development, Strategy,ICC Internal Control and Compliance, and Business Process Engineering.
Since AMCON took over the airline few months ago over bad debts, a new management was expected.
The resignation of George further exposes the crisis-ridden aviation industry in Africa’s most populous nation as weak and unstable.
The 51 year old Aero Contractors airline is one of the four major commercial airlines in Nigeria and the oldest among them.
Two other, Dana Air and Air Nigeria are not in the skies.
While Air Nigeria has suspended operations for a year on account of bankruptcy, Dana Air has not resumed operation since the 3 June plane crash.
The Central Bank of Nigeria had announced that all credits to Aero should be halted because of its $200 million loan.
“We can confirm that Aero’s debt has been taken over by AMCON. Currently Aero is going through a restructuring exercise under AMCON, pending final approval by AMCON board which is expected very soon,” said Mr. Omoke Enyi, Aero Contractors Chief Financial Officer.
Aero, the preferred airline by multinational oil companies, is Nigeria’s oldest private airline. With the technical support the technical support offered by the Canadian Helicopters Corporation (CHC), the world’s largest commercial helicopter operator, Aero has played a key role in the oil and gas operation in Nigeria.
On its website, Aero, which is based in Lagos, says it operates a “combined fleet of around 20 helicopters and 15 fixed wing aircraft ranging from 50 seat Dash 8 to 144 seat Boeing 737-400/500, employing about 1,300 personnel”.
Aero Contractors of Nigeria was formed in 1959 as a wholly owned by Schreiner Airways B.V of the Netherlands. It became a company with initially 40% Nigerian holding in 1973 and subsequently 60% in 1976.
In January 2004 Schreiner Airways was bought by Canadian Helicopter Corporation(CHC) which acquired 40 per cent holding of Aero contractors while 60 per cent majority share remained within the Ibru family group.
Currently, Aero is wholly owned by the Ibru family and is said to be managed by Mrs. Cecilia Ibru, the disgraced managing director of defunct Oceanic Bank.
The Company started in the early 1960′s as an air charter operator.From this beginning in the 1970′s,Aero has gone-on to provide both rotary and fixed wing services to all the major oil,gas and related support companies working in Nigeria and in West Africa sub-region.