The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has said it suspended the Air Transport Licence (ATL) of Azman Air for its failure to remit N1.2 billion collected from air travellers on its behalf to its coffers.
Musa Nuhu, the director-general, NCAA said that the airline also failed to submit security clearance for the renewal of its ATL, which expired in April 2021.
Speaking on phone with aviation journalists on Thursday, Nuhu said that the N1.2 billion debt was the revenue accrued from the five percent Ticket Sales Charge (TSC) and Cargo Sales Charge (CSC) collected from air travellers by the airline.
The TSC/CSC is shared among five aviation agencies; NCAA, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET), and the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria.
NCAA gets 58 percent from the total five percent of TSC/CSC and it is the major revenue earning for the agency, while the other four agencies share the remaining 42 percent.
According to Nuhu, the regulatory agency had made efforts to recover the debt from the airline over the years, but the carrier was recalcitrant in paying back the sum despite collecting it from the passengers.
Azman commenced scheduled operations in 2014.
However, the withdrawal of the airline’s ATL rendered its Air Operator Certificate (AOC) invalid, just as a source close to the industry confided in our correspondent that the certificate had also expired.
Nuhu told journalists that its management had held a series of meeting with Azman Air leadership on how to pay back the debt, but both parties failed to reach an agreement.
For instance, he explained that the management of the airline had promised to pay back the sum of N10 million monthly as part of the N1.2 billion debt, but said the regulatory body insisted on N50 million monthly from the airline.
Besides, he emphasised that the airline could not provide its security clearance, which is one of the prerequisite requirements for the renewal of ATL.
He said: “We didn’t suspend Azman Air’s AOC, but suspended their ATL, which had earlier expired. The ATL earlier expired in April 2021, but we gave the airline extension because of the disruption to aviation activities by the Cocid-19 pandemic, just as we did for other airlines, too. However, we wrote a reminder letter to the airline six months before the new expiring date, which is statutory.
“Later, the airline requested for another extension of 90 days, but we only granted it 60 days and at the expiration of the 60 days, we also gave it 30 days reminder, which elapsed on Wednesday night, yet nothing was done by the airline.
“Besides, the airline owed us N1.2 billion as TSC/CSC. We invited them, set up a committee for that purpose. Azman said they would pay the sum of N10 million monthly out of the debt, which we refused. They later came up to N20 million, but we insist on N50 million monthly. If we had agreed to the N10 million monthly, it means it will take them about 12 years to repay back the money it had already collected and by then, the money would have lost.”
Nuhu further threatened that the ATL or AOC of any other airline that owed the agency 5 percent TSC/CSC would not be renewed henceforth and appealed to other carriers to pay up the backlog of debts.