A Nigerian parliamentary committee on aviation has reportedly put a spanner in the works for the certification of NG Eagle (XLE, Lagos), the start-up of the state-owned Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), after trade unions complained about the asset-stripping of Arik Air (W3, Lagos) to start NG Eagle.

On October 6, the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation in Abuja directed the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to put on hold the issuing of NG Eagle's Air Operators’ Certificate (AOC), reported Vanguard newspaper. This followed a joint petition by the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) branch of the National Union of Pensioners (NUP). The petitioners alleged that AMCON - a special purpose vehicle of the federal government to recover debts - transferred assets of Arik Air, under its receivership since 2017, to NG Eagle in order to evade paying Arik Air’s debts.

Amongst other things, they claim that former Arik Air aircraft have been transferred to NG Eagle. The committee resolved to investigate.

Committee chairman, Nnolim Nnaji, said:” If truly AMCON is taking over the assets of Arik Air and handing them over to another legal entity, the aspect of liabilities must be addressed so that public funds are not lost”.

Neither the NCAA nor AMCON was immediately available for comment.

Nigeria's Guardian newspaper said sources at the NCAA confirmed that NG Eagle was already in the final AOC phase and should get approval this month (October 2021). AMCON has reportedly acquired three Boeing 737s. As of April 2021, two former Arik aircraft had been repainted in NG Eagle livery and were parked at Lagos. A third aircraft was sighted at Ethiopian Airlines (ET, Addis Ababa)'s Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility in Addis Ababa. Ethiopian sources said the B737 recently underwent C-check maintenance. It was now awaiting branding and should return to Nigeria in about two weeks.

Flightradar24 ADS-B data confirmed the existence of two NG Eagle B737-700s in Lagos - 5N-MJE (msn 34761) and 5N-MJG (msn 33944).

As reported previously, NG Eagle was incorporated on July 11, 2019, with a share capital of NGN1 billion (USD2.5 million), of which AMCON holds NGN499.9 million (USD1.2 million), with the rest held by private investors. The NCAA previously confirmed that NG Eagle was in the final AOC drive and had applied to use at least three B737s to operate domestic routes.

The Guardian reported that various trade unions were at loggerheads about NG Eagle's imminent launch. While ANAP and NUP had argued for a delay in the certification, the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association (ATSSSAN), the National Association of Nigeria Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), and the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) were pushing for the airline's launch to go ahead. In a joint statement, they urged ANAP and NUP not to interfere in Arik Air and NG Eagle Airlines’ matters. “We assure them that they will have the workers of both Arik Air and NG Eagle to contend with," they warned.

Arik Managing Director, Roy Ilegbodu, in an interview with Nigerian Flightdeck earlier this year, said AMCON owned NG Eagle, but it was an entirely different legal entity from Arik Air and there was a connection between the airlines. He said the two B737-700s had been mortgaged to AMCON and "it is very clear that at some point they’d take their assets and that is what was done”.