Nigerian government takes over biggest airline, Arik Air

Nigeria's government is taking over the country's biggest airline, Arik Air, to "instill sanity" and prevent "a major catastrophe" in the aviation industry of Africa's most populous nation.

A statement from the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria says the heavily indebted airline has not paid workers for months and has had aircraft seized for non-payment of leases. Arik has regularly cancelled flights for lack of money to buy fuel.

The statement announcing the receivership Thursday came after Arik temporarily canceled service to New York and grounded 10 aircraft.

Airlines have been hard hit by Nigeria's currency crisis, with tickets paid in devalued naira but scarce foreign currency needed for fuel.

Arik is the biggest airline in West Africa and flies 55 percent of domestic flights in Nigeria.