The management of Arik Air Limited (in receivership) has dismissed allegations of misappropriation of funds to the tune of N120 billion.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had reportedly detained the Receiver Manager appointed by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria for Arik Air, Mr Kamilu Omokide, over alleged misappropriation and diversion of about N120bn.
Reacting to the development, the airline described the report as false, saying it was “nothing more than well-concocted lies and forms part of a deliberate campaign of calumny against the Receiver Manager.
In the statement, made available to The PUNCH on Sunday, the carrier said the alleged misappropriation of N120 billion was contained in a petition filed by Mr Femi Falana.
The statement was made available by the media consultancy firm to the airline, SY & T Communications Limited.
The Chief Executive Officer of SY & T Communications, Mr Simon Tumba, in the statement, described Sir Arumemi Johnson, the majority shareholder of Arik, “as the true subject of the investigation.”
The statement added, “Johnson guarantees the N240bn owed by Arik to AMCON as of May 31, 2023, and is, therefore, an obligor in respect of this indebtedness and is personally liable for them.”
It further read in part,” This statement is issued on behalf of Arik Air Limited (in receivership) under the leadership of its Receiver Manager, Omokide, Kamilu Alaba, in response to recent media reports concerning an EFCC investigation into the affairs of Arik. These reports have unjustifiably, and without verification of the facts, linked the Receiver Manager of Arik to financial fraud within Arik.
“The investigation is apparently based on a petition filed by Mr. Femi Falana, SAN (the petition) and was instigated by Sir Arumemi Johnson, the majority shareholder in Arik, which owes AMCON about N240 billion as of May 31, 2023. Sir Arumemi Johnson guaranteed, and therefore is by law an obligor in respect of, this indebtedness and is personally liable for them.
“The wild allegations of the misappropriation of N120bn in the petition are manifestly and patently false and amount to no more than well-concocted lies as part of a deliberate campaign of calumny against the Receiver Manager to abort the ongoing receivership in Arik. Indeed, even on the face of the petition, the claims do not add up to N120 billion. It is made up as a publicity stunt.”
“Also, the statement noted that the receiver manager seeks only to recover money owed to the Nigerian people by the debtor, assuring that he and the airline workers would accord the EFCC maximum cooperation.”
Arik Air also disputed the allegations of “deceptive portrayal of the actions of the receiver manager, suggesting underhand sales of assets, including a number of CRJ aircraft.”
According to the statement, the accusations against the receiver manager are unfounded, and they have no influence over the exercise of mortgage rights by a mortgagee, noting that the JV financing of certain wet lease operations, which are innovative ways of raising capital, raises no criminal intent.
The statement added that tearing down a Boeing 737-700 aircraft registered as 5N-MJI was a professionally taken decision on an aircraft that was beyond economic repair.
It said, “Furthermore, the petition raises concerns about the teardown of a Boeing 737-700 aircraft registered as 5N-MJI, which had been abandoned and cannibalised in Malta ever since 2013 by Arik under the then leadership of Sir Johnson and years before the receivership commenced. This was a professionally taken decision on an aircraft that was Beyond Economic Repairs (BER) and stood the chance of being sent to the graveyard by the authorities of the relevant airport in Malta. The pre-teardown valuation of the aircraft by McLarens (a foremost aircraft valuation company) valued the aircraft at $1.5 million. This was, however, seized by Lufthansa Technik over Arik’s indebtedness incurred pre-receivership.
It added, “The receiver manager firmly asserts his unwavering determination to steadfastly defend the delicately constructed integrity he has nurtured, firmly refusing to permit any baseless allegations to besmirch it. He assures that he and all staff of Arik Air Limited (in receiver) will accord EFCC maximum cooperation”