Arik Air sinks with lies, slavery and debt running into billions
A couple of weeks ago, someone claiming to be a senior staff of the Arik Air Limited anonymously emailed me a document, detailing the racism, discrimination, abuses and gross corruption and mismanagement that go on at Arik Air.
The person says Arik has bought over the Nigerian press; hence the strong need for me to ensure Nigerians and the world read this document. My TheHardTruth! team and I have taken these fourteen days period to reflect on and go through the allegations and claims made herein with a fine tooth comb while conducting our own research and investigations. We sincerely think that there is no smoke without fire and have decided to publish this document in its entirety - verbatim. For whatever it's worth, I urge you to try to read the who length of this document and publish it in your newspaper after thorough investigation. I hope you ask the hard questions after reading it. Please note: document title as given by its author is retained. Thank you as always. The document now follows below:
It was with great hope and anticipation that Nigerians heralded the arrival of an indigenous airline which appeared, from all ramifications, set to meet and even exceed the world aviation standards while providing Nigerian citizens with much needed jobs.
For the past 5 years, Arik Air Limited has stood out in the African aviation industry as an icon of excellence or at least so it would seem. One cannot help but admire the very expressive and lovely blend of the Arik colors of wine, blue, ash and white. If you have ever visited any of the local airports in Nigeria, you can easily identify the Arik fleet by their dazzling colours, state of the art aircraft and of course by the fact that their fleet very easily outnumbers all others at the ramp.
In the last three years, Arik Air has expanded its operations to include airports in the West Coast of Africa, London and Johannesburg, as well as the JFK International Airport in New York. It has also scaled through the IOSA audit, which qualifies it as an IATA member. This certification goes a long to showing that Arik Air has gained international accreditation and recognition, a major feat and something Nigerians should be very proud of.
ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD
To the casual observer, it must be heaven on Earth for the employees of Arik Air Limited. After all, they not only work in a stable and healthy environment; they also receive huge financial compensations in addition to exposure to international professionalism.
However, I can authoritatively tell you that Arik Air sits on a huge can of worms, which threatens to engulf it if something is not done urgently about it.
GROSS CORRUPTION AND MISMANAGEMENT
The following facts about Arik Air may seem incredulous but are easily verifiable, should anyone care to check.
Despite the large successful front being projected by Arik Air, it has become common knowledge that the company is gradually sinking under the weight of huge debts, which have been incurred over the years owing to corrupt practices culminating in the mismanagement of the company.
A few months ago, Arik Air lost one of its Airbus 330 jets, which roughly cost $222.5million, as a result of the company's inability to service the loan it procured for the purchase of the said aircraft.
Arik Air employs about 2,500 staff, an estimated 200 of which are expatriates. It should be noted that the Nigerian immigration law clearly states that an expatriate can only be employed by a Nigerian company when it has been proven and established that there is no Nigerian qualified for the same position, provided that the expatriate has relevant qualifications and experiences. But nearly 90% of the expatriates employed as ground staff at Arik Air have neither the required qualifications nor the expertise for the positions for which they were hired. And although the Nigerian law requires that every position occupied by an expatriate should have a Nigerian understudy who would eventually replace the expatriate after 12 months, at Arik Air, the expatriates understudy their fellow expatriates while the Nigerian staff are left in the same positions without a raise or promotion for years, even though they are actually the ones who do the real job, since the so-called expatriates (whose remunerations are far more than those of Nigerians) lack the requisite experience and qualifications.
RACISM AT WORK AT ARIK AIR LIMITED
The Chairman of Arik Air Limited, Sir Joseph Akinola Arumemi Ihkide, a Nigerian, is in the habit of referring to his Nigerian employees as black monkeys and joins the expatriates in putting his Nigerian beasts down, as that is the only way they believe they can get the best out of them.
The expatriate ground staff goes on a two weeks rotation (leave) after every 56 days. Their return air tickets - and those of their family members who are allowed to visit them in Nigeria twice in a year - are paid fully by the company. They are even housed or accommodated in the most expensive hotels in the country; their meals, laundry plus transportation costs all taken care of by the company.
The expatriate pilots proceed on rotation (leave) every 30 days. In other words, in one year they only work for six months. Arik Air pays for their return air tickets to any part of the world six times in a year. This implies that they can very conveniently work for Arik Air for half of the year while working for another company for the remainder part of the year. If for any reason they are unable to go on their leave, the company compensates them for that in cash.
Who then flies the aircraft when they (the expatriates) are not here?
The Nigerian beasts of course! Yes, they fly the aircraft around the clock, all year round and can hardly be granted their annual leave. The same goes for the Nigerian ground staff who can also be hardly allowed to go on leave. Some members of the ground staff have been working for two whole years without going on any form of leave or vacation. They are even made to forfeit their leave without any form of compensation if they fail to take their leave (which is never granted to them) within the year. In a very rare instance, a Nigerian could be granted leave, but it usually takes a miracle if the person does not get called back to work before the leave period is up. There is no gainsaying here that the remaining portion of the interrupted leave is never compensated for in some other ways. It is unthinkable to speak of such a vile topic as leave allowance or any other type of allowance, as only the whites get what is called local allowance. This is money paid to them in local currency, which is apart from their regular salaries.
It is also forbidden for any Nigerian staff on business trip to travel in the business class cabin. Not even the captains who fly these airplanes are spared of this treatment! On the other hand, however, every expatriate staff from the Arik London office, including the office assistants, flies only in business class.
The cabin crews are not left out in the discrimination that goes on at Arik Air. Freshly-trained crews are made to take the lead on flights so long as they have white skin. The senior flight attendants with black skin and who train them (the whites) on the job are always forced to step down for them. I do not need to tell you just how frustrating and psychologically depressing this can be for the Nigerian Arik Air crews who are constantly made to serve under their subordinates simply because they are white.
Arik Air Nigerian members of staff are denied all the benefits outlined in their contracts. Their contracts state that they and their immediate family members are entitled to free air tickets to every route that Arik Air flies. Go check, whereas Arik honors this contractual agreement with its foreign employees, its Nigerian staff pay market-rate fares to fly on Arik Air during personal trips. As a result, these members of staff would prefer to fly with other airlines rather than patronize their own company.
The provision of health care, which was only introduced a few months ago, we understand, will soon come to an end, as the Zenith Medicare providers are on the verge of withdrawing their services due to a backlog of unpaid bills that have accumulated within the short span of time that they started rendering services to Arik Air Limited Nigerian staff.
Job insecurity is another trend that is characteristic with working for Arik Air Limited as a Nigerian. Nigerian staffers are dismissed sometimes based on hear say allegations without the benefit of a warning letter or an investigation or an enquiry into the allegation in accordance with the stipulation of our contractual agreement. There are countless instances of where employees have been dismissed simply because the Chairman was in a bad mood. For merely not liking the colour of a staff's tie, the Chairman will usually grab their ID card and that would be the end of the road for such a staff. Worse still, no one is permitted to talk in the Chairman's presence, not even the management staff. Usually, as soon as the Chairman drives into the company's premises, his Nigerian employees scurry to safety for fear of incurring his wrath and getting fired from work on the spot. This particular attitude has earned him the unenviable title of MR. POINT AND KILL. It is, therefore, not surprising that Nigerian employees of Arik Air come to work every day literally holding their hearts in their hands while undergoing the psychological trauma of not knowing if they still have a job at the end of the day. Make no mistake about it, going to work at Arik everyday for a Nigerian is truly like going to take a walk on an eggshell.
People with the same job positions or titles are paid varying salaries in the same office, as everyone's salary is dependent upon who can pave the way for an increment for one. It is not based on experience or job functions, and it is not a situation that applies to the expatriate workers.
The Nigerians are further made to feel inferior and unimportant going by the fact that the expatriates are served lunch (fully paid for by the company) in their offices at lunch times whereas their Nigerian colleagues get nothing. It is sad and humiliating, to say the least, to come into the office during lunch time to see Nigerian staffers watch their expatriate counterparts get fat on the company's free lunch. To worsen the matter, there is no provision made for a staff canteen where the Nigerian members of staff can go to buy their own food. And so, they starve at work most days.
In order to stop employees from taking water home with their water bottles, the Chairman of Arik Air had to order the confiscation of all water dispensers in the offices. As a result, people work all day long without water to drink. The expatriates are, of course, served water when they are served lunch or whenever they called for some.
GROSS INDEBTEDNESS AND ROBBING PETER TO PAY PAUL AT ARIK AIR
It is common knowledge at work today that Arik Air is so grossly indebted that people have been wondering how much longer the company can afford to stand. For the past one year and six months, the management of Arik Air has been deducting money from the meager salaries of their Nigerian staff. These monies are meant for the mandatory pensions fund scheme for every Nigerian worker. But these monies are not being remitted into the individual staff accounts. The last known remission of pension fund deducted from staff salaries was during March/April of 2010. This means that the Arik Air has been stealing from her staff all these months and no one can stand up to the management or Chairman of the company to enquire about this criminal act. You may wonder why!
Similarly, deductions are made from staff salaries for tax purposes but since the inception of Arik Air, no staff has seen any evidence of tax clearance as is done in other organizations or companies. Little wonder then why the Federal Inland Revenue clamped down on Arik sometime last year for none remittance of taxes. To where have all this money deducted from staff salaries gone? Where are the pension fund administrators who are supposed to be monitoring such gross misconduct? It is ironic that the real thieves are seating comfortably in their empires while the petty thieves are arrayed for public display. What greater theft is there than when you steal from people living below poverty level?
UNTOLD HARDSHIPS PRECIPATED BY UNPAID SALARIES
For the past one year and counting, the Nigerian staff of Arik Air has been undergoing untold hardships as a result of their monthly salaries which have taken a pattern of one month out of three to come. This means that for one year now these men and women who work tirelessly for this airline are usually owed at least two months' salary at every given time. As at the time of this writing, the last salary payment made to us was for the month of February 2011, which leaves us with a whooping two months without pay! How do you think the workers and their dependants have been surviving?
It is even most painful during festive seasons, as December salaries are usually paid during the second week of February of the following year, ensuring that none of the Nigerian Arik staff gets to enjoy Christmas with their families. The same goes for the Muslim festivity seasons. We all have bills to pay; we have mouths to feed. The late payments of our salaries have recently been extended to the expatriates most of whom have lost their mortgaged homes due their inability to keep up with their monthly payments. Of course, the expatriates are beginning to abscond in droves. Where do the Nigerians run to? I can tell you that 90% of Arik staff is still with the company today because they are yet find something else to do.
DANGER LOOMS - BEWARE
This signals danger for any company, as this situation breeds insecurity, disloyalty, lack of interest, trust, as well as lack of attention to detail. Think for a minute that these pilots are nothing but human beings who are expected to fly other human beings. Under such inhumane conditions, accidents are bound to happen due to distractions from inability to meet up with personal commitments. Little wonder why the Arik Air personnel, crew and passenger service agents have become very hostile these days. In fact, I wouldn't advise anyone to fly Arik Air anymore until some of these issues are addressed as you just might be endangering your life if you chose to not listen to me.
The staff of Arik Air is forbidden from joining any form of union. They are not a part of the Aviation Workers Union. Anyone thought of to have any union tendency is dismissed immediately. But my question is what about the Nigerian Labour Congress who should have been the staff's last hope and resort? They are in the pocket of the Arik Air's management and as such, do not give a hoot about the workers' plight at Arik. This is a huge shame on the part of the Nigerian Labour Congress (we sorely miss Comrade Oshiomhole here, that is if he is still the same old fighting comrade we used to know, they say that power corrupts) Who then will come to the aid of these hardworking Nigerians who are being used like slaves and whose rights are being trampled upon and who are being threatened with dismissal at every turn, even when they are not being paid their due wages?
Our most pathetic plight at Arik is the fact that we do not get any form of gratuity when our work at Arik Air is comes to an end. When one's work is done, one just leaves the company empty handed. Should one dies on the job, one's dependants get absolutely nothing. I can cite at least 10 Arik Air staff who died on their jobs last year alone and as I write this, none of the bereaved families has gotten a dime from the Arik Air Limited.
THE PLAN TO BRING ARIK AIR DOWN THROUGH GROSS MISMANAGEMENT
Bearing in mind the level of Arik Air's indebtedness, one would think that the management of Arik Air will be doing everything in its powers to alleviate this situation, but that does not seem to be the case. Rather, it seems that the management of Arik Air has been given a mandate to do everything within its powers to run down the company going by the extravagant way they handle their expatriates. The expatriates are housed in posh hotels whereas the company has, lying waste, brand new guest houses that can comfortably house all the expatriates without adding extra costs to the company. Arik Air spends as much as a whooping two billion naira per annum on hotels alone – accommodating these expatriates.
Presently every hospitality provider/service provider that deals with Arik Air is being owed outrageous sums of money. Some of these providers include but are not limited to:
Cheers Hotels - over N200,000,000
Heritage House Square - over N80,000,000
Park lane Hotel - over N50,000,000
Mei Hotels - over N45,000,000
Atlantic Hotels - over N80,000,000
Renaissance Hotels - N40,000,000
Sheraton Hotel and Towers - over – figures in hundreds of millions
Bolingo Hotels - over N40,000,000
Welcome centre hotels - N45,000,000
(Please note the figures quoted above are close estimates)
10. The same goes for several oil servicing companies and suppliers who supply Arik Air with both aviation and car fuel. Most of Arik Air flight cancellations are as a result of the company's inability to pay for aviation fuel.
The fleet of cars belonging to Arik Air can be sighted from a mile away. This is because all the cars are ragged and in horrible conditions, as there is no fund to maintain them. Day to day office operations have virtually come to a standstill as a result of lack of funds.
In the midst of this executive mess, the chairman of the organization had the effrontery to purchase a brand new global express private jet that cost as much as $25 million when his company is unable to pay its workers' (who cannot put food on the table for their various families) wages.
Arik Air pilots who number about 110 or more go on mandatory simulator training two times every year. Each of these trainings cost the company between $10, 000.00 and $15,000.00 per person. What has happened overtime is that these trainings are paid for but the pilots usually end up not attending them as a result of lack of funds to either purchase their travel tickets or lack of maintenance money or their passports are held up with immigration as a result of outstanding debts Arik Air owes the immigration. These fees are non-refundable. One can only wonder why a company would repeatedly pay millions of naira for trainings they have no intentions of attending.
Looking at the entire Arik Air setup, it is obvious that the personnel hired to run its operations are either morons or people who have no listening ears.
It is a wonderful thing that our very own indigenous airline has ventured into the international routes but at what expense? The rate of expansion of the Arik Air network is indeed very amazing considering the span of time they have been on the aviation scene. But is it wise to continue flying a route that is clearly killing the airline?
The Lagos-London route is a goldmine any day anytime but what about the Abuja-London route? How can you explain that 6 passengers are ferried from Abuja to London on an airbus daily? This is sheer madness or the height of stupidity. Why not merge both flights to ensure a full flight always? Why should Arik Air deliberately continue to lose over 40,000,000.00 million naira each time the Abuja-London flight lifts into the air? The same goes for the JFK flight which has been running at a huge loss to the company. Subsequently, the local operations are milked dry to sustain the international operations which simply gulps all the money, leaving the company standing with an empty bag at the detriment of their staff who go home for two or three months without any of the money they work very hard for.
Ironically though, it is the London operations which make very little money for the company that enjoys all the company's goodies, as they don't have any idea what it means to be owed salary for a week not to talk of about three whole months! Could this stem from the fact that they are white?
It is difficult to believe that expatriates are actually the ones employed to run the catering services for the air operations, considering the abomination that is served in the name of snacks on the local Arik flights and the rancid poison served on the Arik international flights. I dare say that our very own Nigerian chefs will do a lot better.
Please feel free to speak to members of staff of Arik Air, if you know any, in order to ascertain the truthfulness of these claims. In any way you can, please Nigerians, let us lift a voice or a hand to the aid of these our brothers and sisters who are being abused and discriminated against in our own very land! Still wonder why our youth run away to foreign countries to do menial jobs? Well it is because out there, there is dignity in service and everyone is respected irrespective of what your job function is. Even Western are working hard to curb racism is curbed. I can vouch that no employer in the Western world will call his employee a beast or an employee's father a monkey to their own face. This has to stop now!
Please treat as very urgent and help clean Nigerian workers of this unlawful discrimination. Thanks .
By Kaanayo Nwachukwu