Airline operators berate FAAN, NAMA, others over alleged N30b debt
Airline operators yesterday berated regulatory agencies over alleged debts and current clampdown on airlines to retrieve the outstanding money said to be running into billions of naira.
The operators, under the aegis of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), described the debts as “phantom’” and a ploy to ground the domestic airlines.
It would be recalled that the airlines, including those that have ceased operation allegedly owe regulatory agencies like the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) debts amounting to over N30 billion
Chairman of AON, Capt. Nogie Meggison, said the operators strongly decried the ongoing action by the various government agencies in the aviation sector whereby they threatened to deny airlines services for their operations or completely ground them as this is likely to force airlines out of business.
Meggison noted further that because of the economic hard times of today, airlines have become a soft target and are seen as a cash cow for everyone else to prey on easily.
He called on the agencies on the need to realise that air transport is the engine of the economy, stressing that their effort at disturbing Nigerian airlines is capable of damaging President Muhammadu Buhari’s effort to restore the economy.
About two weeks ago, the Federal Government directed its revenue recovery committee in the aviation industry to ensure the recovery of N8.08 billion owed the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) by airlines.
The effort seemed to be paying off as the committee has recovered N329 million in two months as it has intensified efforts to recover more than half of the money before the end of the year.
Apart form airlines that are still in operation, many other airlines including cargo and charter operators that have ceased operations are also heavily indebted to the agencies.
The agencies are said to be carrying huge liability of more than N40 billion pension, high cost of operation of manning virtually all the 24 airports across the nation and growing overhead.
He noted that without the airlines, there won’t be aviation in the first place, adding that it is because of the airlines that airports are built and managed by FAAN.
“It is because of the airlines that an agency like NAMA exists to provide navigational services. The airlines also are the reason why we have catering companies, ground services providers, fuel marketers and other ancillary service providers in and around the airport, he said.”
He noted that in spite of the fact that the airlines provide jobs for all and sundry, the carriers are perpetually being undermined and milked dry on daily basis occasioned by multiple charges and double taxation of all kinds to various government organs and are forced to pay for several inefficiencies and in some cases for services that are not provided without value for money and with no one coming to their aid.
He disclosed that this kind of cruel hostility has stifled airlines in the past and is one of the reasons why many Nigerian airlines are going out of business in the past 20 years including the likes of Triax, Sosoliso, Air Nigeria, Premium Air Shuttle, Gas, Okada, Sahara, Oriental, Chanchangi, Savanah, Harco, Harka, Holtrade, Intercontinental, Skyline, Easylink, Chrome Air, Fresh Air, ADC, EAS, Virgin Nigeria among others.
His words, “Majority of these phantom debts are owed by airlines that are dead. Only airlines that are in operations can pay debts. If you deny services to the airlines how do you expect them to operate and make money to pay up their bills in the first place? There are better ways of doing things. Instead of forcing the airlines out of business by denying them access to fly or employing crude arm-twisting tactics, the agencies should be working closely with the airlines to reduce costs and make their operations more efficient.”