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Airline operators fault Senate committee’s claims of imminent air crashes

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Airline operators have faulted the Senate House Committee on Aviation over its claims that financial distress has caused carriers to cut corners, therefore, rendering the local airspace unsafe.

The operators, under the aegis of Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON), said though they agreed with the committee’s call for more bailout for local carriers, they said the guiding regulatory rules had never been violated by any member.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Aviation, Smart Adeyemi, on Monday said that some stakeholders had confessed that airlines were cutting corners just to survive the devastating effects of COVID-19 pandemic on air travel business.

Adeyemi said except the Federal Government took an immediate step to properly support the airlines with bailout beyond the N4 billion initially proposed and avail foreign exchange among other palliatives, aircraft may start falling off the sky from next week.

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But apparently shocked by the verdict, President of the AON, Dr. Abdulmunaf Yunusa, yesterday, said there was no truth in the claims.

Yunusa noted that the senator might have been misunderstood and quoted out of context because “there is never any available fact supporting such a conclusion.”

He said that in most of the media reports, the senator was quoted as pleading with government to stop the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) from re-introducing payment of duties and Value Added Tax (VAT) on importation of commercial aircraft, commercial aircraft spares and engines, noting that the reintroduction was a flagrant disobedience of the Executive Order by President Muhammadu Buhari granting zero duty and zero VAT on the importation of commercial aircraft, aircraft spares and aircraft engines.

“We wish to state categorically that no Nigerian airline would cut corners under any circumstance. Nigerian airlines will never compromise safety under any circumstance. If the burden of running our business becomes unbearable as a result of the Customs duties and VAT, we would rather shut down and suspend our operations rather than cut corners,” Yunusa said.

Also, Aviation Security expert, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), said that the senator’s line of thinking about the local airlines had got more stakeholders worried.

Ojikutu said if the airline operators were cutting corners, the Senate should be more concerned with the quality of oversight from the NCAA, and not financial palliatives.

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