Arik Air in Soup as Customs Probe Alleged Unlawful Sale of Aircraft


The Nigeria Customs Service has launched an investigation on the management of Arik Air in receivership following reports of aircraft cannibalization and the alleged diversion of import duties totalling $40m.

Arik Air entered receivership under the Asset Management Company of Nigeria in 2017 due to concerns about the airline’s financial instability and its inability to meet operational obligations. The primary objective of the receivership was to restructure the airline, settle outstanding debts, and ensure its continued operation.

However, recent developments have raised fresh concerns regarding the illicit sale of the airline’s aircraft. The NCS was currently probing the cannibalisation of three aircraft, which were subsequently re-exported.

These allegations marked a critical point in the ongoing efforts to stabilise Arik Air’s operations and restore its financial health. The NCS investigation aimed to uncover any irregularities or illegal activities related to the disposal of aircraft assets and the diversion of import duties.

However, in a document titled, ‘Re: Request for Physical Inspection of Boeing 737NG. MSN: 28640, Reg No. 5N-MJI; Bombardier CRJ-900, MSN: 15059, Reg: No: 5N-JEB; And CRJ-900ER, MSN: 15058, Reg. No. 5N-JEA,’ signed by the Comptroller, Customs Intelligence Unit, CIU, I.G. Umar, it stated that the explanation offered to its earlier enquiry on the same airplanes was sketchy and needed further clarification.

The document read, “The management of Arik Air are to come in person to the CIU headquarters for better clarification.

“On the B737NG aircraft with the registration number: 5N-MJI, the service requested the management of the airline to provide evidence of notification of temporary re-exportation or sale, particulars of movement of the aircraft to Malta, evidence of written notification to dismantle the aircraft due to the distressed status of Arik Arik and the approval on same from the customs to the service.

“Particulars of the executor of the dismantling/destruction process, particulars of seizure and repossession, records/inventory of salvaged parts and location and current storage of the parts are also needed.

“On the Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft with the registration number: 5N-JEA, the management should also produce evidence of notification of temporary re-exportation or sale, particulars of movements of the aircraft to Slovenia 2020, detention documents, repossession documents by EDC and current location of the aircraft.”

This request was in pursuant to the statutory responsibilities as enshrined in the Sections 22, 38, 142(a, b, e, g and h) and 148-151 of the Nigeria Customs Service Act.

“You are kindly requested to acknowledge receipt of this letter to the office of the undersigned and to schedule an appointment with the service not later than two weeks from the date of the receipt of this letter,” it added.

It would be recalled that Umar had directed the physical examination of the aircraft in question, which were later found to have been exported.

But, reacting to the demand for a physical inspection of the aircraft aforementioned, Arik Air in receivership claimed that the aircraft in reference had been seized and repossessed by some lessors and partners of the airline.

A statement signed by the management of the airline also stated that, “Arik Air Limited (in receivership) remains indebted to AMCON to the tune of over N240bn. Together with Rockson and Ojemai Farms, all companies owned by Johnson Arumemi-Ikhide, they are indebted to the tune of over N400bn to AMCON. Rather than engage in fruitless campaigns of calumny, they should approach AMCON to pay their loans.”

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