The staff of Arik Air, which once advertised itself as Nigeria's biggest airline, have been reduced to panhandling from passengers, as they are being owed a backlog of salaries. In addition to not being paid, the staff are working under horrible conditions similar to what obtains in slave camps.
Sources in the aviation company told SaharaReporters that the Chairman, Johnson Arumemi-Ikhide, has been terrorizing staff and sacking them arbitrarily. He is said to have studiously avoided discussing with staff on how to pay salaries, which stretch back to July.
The Chairman, sources added, is more concerned about activities lined up for the airline's 10th anniversary.
He is said to sack staff on mere hearsay or text messages sent to him by traitorous staff desperate to do their colleagues in. Those involved function as spies, who invent allegations of wrongdoing and pass them on to the Chairman.
Last week, a female staff, Julia, was sacked for calling one of Arumemi-Ikhide's spies "Chairman's baby."
He also suspended another staff for braiding her hair. In August, he sacked one Captain Obot because he refused to fly, having not being paid for two months.
At the Murtala Mohammed International Airport said company sources, staff have had to board passengers in darkness. While the staff of other airlines have internet facilities, Arik staff, airport sources said, are forced to personally provide internet facilities for the company's use.
"The situation has turned many of us into corporate beggars. We rely on passengers for crumbs to feed and cater for our family. Our aircraft cannot be regarded as safe because pilots are traumatized by not being paid," said a staff.
She added that the company has not reviewed salaries in over seven years. Staff pensions and taxes, she added, are not remitted.
Also, the staff disclosed that Arik owes insurers and all types of suppliers and vendors.
Some of its cabin crew members, said another source, have been locked out of hotel rooms due to the airline's inability to pay. Sim slots for pilots, he further said, are canceled because the airline cannot make payments for the simulator.
The airline is also a place of industrial apartheid. Its expatriate staff, who do exactly what Nigerians are doing, to routinely recycle meals that should be thrown away are paid in dollars and usually seven times the amount Nigerians earn. The security department is said to have two different salary grades for graduate staff.
"We don't have work tools. We buy our own rain boots, torchlight and pregnant security staff sleep on the tarmac for night duty.
"We even pay for our uniforms. The last time Arik Air gave us clothes was seven years ago," an angry staff said.
Another issue with the airline is that it recycles meals that should be routinely thrown away, our source said.
"If meals are not eaten on the plane, they are put back in the freezer for another time. This can lead to food poisoning," said a catering department staff.
Many members of staff disclosed that they are currently being overworked and under enormous pressure.
One of them told this medium that some staff were sacked for registering as members of one of the aviation workers' unions. He explained that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is aware of what is happening in Arik but turning a blind eye.
The Managing Director, Mr. Chris Ndulue, his deputy, Captain Ado Sanusi, and Chief Pilot are said to be too timid to confront the chairman.