A mild drama ensued at the headquarters of Arik Air located at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos as the Chairman and Founder of the airline, Chief Johnson Arumemi-Ikhide was denied access to the company’s premises.
This incident is the latest in a series of legal battles between the airline’s founder and the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), which took over the management of Arik Air in 2017.
Arumemi-Ikhide and his aides arrived at the premises of the airline in line with a court order that granted him access to the premises. However, he was stopped at the entrance by security guards on duty who cited an “order from above” not to allow him access to the premises.
The Chief Security Officer of the airline claimed that he was only answerable to the receiver-manager appointed by AMCON.
The Arik Air founder stated that he was not there to harass anyone or cause any trouble but to respect the court order which granted him access.
He later left the premises and proceeded to the MMA Domestic Airport Division of the Nigeria Police Force to write a statement.
The legal battle over the control of Arik Air began in 2017 when AMCON took over the airline due to mounting debts and mismanagement. The corporation appointed a receiver-manager, Kamilu Omokhide, to oversee the operations of the airline.
In 2021, Arumemi-Ikhide and his wife filed a motion in court, stating that the duty imposed on the receiver-manager to act in the best interest of Arik Air Limited as a whole, includes the duty to act in the best interest of the plaintiffs as members of the airline.
They also sought an order directing the defendants to allow the directors and shareholders of Arik Air Ltd unfettered access to their offices, premises, facilities, and staff required for the discharge of their functions.
The court ruling granted the plaintiffs access to the premises but did not preclude restricting access. The recent incident at the Arik Air headquarters highlights the ongoing tug of war over control of the airline between the founder and AMCON.
The airline industry in Nigeria has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic recession. Arik Air, which was once Nigeria’s largest airline, has been struggling to stay afloat in recent years.
The legal battles over control have added to the challenges faced by the airline and its employees.