BusinessDay

Airline operators refute accusations of fraud over debts

Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has refuted accusations on some media organisations accusing them of ‘defrauding’ government aviation agencies like the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) of over N19billion Naira while converting same to ‘personal use’.

Allen Onyema, vice president of AON and chairman of Air Peace he revealed in a statement that the attention of AON has been drawn to news making the rounds that Musa Nuhu, the DG NCAA, accused airlines of defrauding government aviation agencies of over N19billion naira while converting same to ‘personal use’.

“AON wishes to state its very strong reservations for such accusations and we deny very strongly that our members are defrauding or defrauded government agencies of the said amount or any amount for that matter. Airline Operations, worldwide, is not a cash and carry business. Every airline in the world owes debts which are settled as their operations go on. Nigeria is not an exception,” Onyema said.

He however noted that it is true that some of its members have very huge debts but not all members owe such debts. He added that owing of debts in itself does not amount to fraud.

“We frown very strongly at the criminalization of all Nigerian airlines as a result of the said debts,” he noted.

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According to him, various parties were present at a stakeholders’ meeting and the DG NCAA did not at any time use such words to describe Nigerian airlines.
He stated that the meeting rather ended on an amicable note with everyone agreeing to work together to address the debts.

“It is pertinent to point out that some of these debts are owed by some airlines that are no longer in existence. We, however, advise our members with such bad debts to engage the agencies and put forward repayment plans.

“Airlines in Nigeria are operating under very harsh environment and need all the support from everyone,” the vice president explained.

In a stakeholders’ meeting on Tuesday, Nuhu, had warned that if over N42bn and $7.8 million debt owed by airlines to agencies are not paid immediately, the aviation organisations may collapse in the next few weeks.

He said domestic airlines are currently owing the NCAA N19 billion and $7.8 million respectively for their statutory five percent Ticket Sales Charge and Cargo Sales Charge (TSC/CSC).

He also said the airlines are also indebted to FAAN and NAMA to the tune of N18 billion and N5 billion, respectively.