BusinessDay

Aviation agencies near collapse over airlines’ billion naira debt

...NCAA gives operators one month ultimatum to present repayment plans

Musa Nuhu, the director-general, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has warned that if over N42 billion and $7.8 million debt owed by airlines to aviation agencies in the country are not paid immediately, the aviation organisations may collapse in the next few weeks.

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

The airlines are also indebted to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) to the tune of N18 billion and N5 billion, respectively.

The airlines owe FAAN landing and parking charges, while they are also hugely indebted to NAMA in terminal and navigational charges.

Nuhu in a stakeholder meeting held with indigenous airlines and ground handling companies in Abuja on Tuesday, gave the operators a one-month ultimatum to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with NCAA, which would stipulate the repayment plans of their debts to the agency.

Nuhu expressed disappointment over a letter, which emanated from the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), signed by Alhaji Abdulmunaf Yunusa, the President of AON, dated August 8, 2022 and addressed to Hadi Sirika, the Minister of Aviation that accused the agencies, especially the NCAA of muscling out the operators through multiple charges.

Nuhu who noted that the airlines and the entire aviation industry were going through a very difficult period, especially at this time, insisted that all the charges collected by NCAA were statutorily and in compliance with the Civil Aviation Act 2006.

According to him, the airlines were not responsible for the payment of TSC/CSC, but only collect such on behalf of the agencies from the passengers and wondered why the operators would accuse it of engaging in multiple levies.

Nuhu further debunked the claim that the NCAA imposes excess baggage charge on the airlines.

He further compared and juxtaposed the levies imposed on operators in Nigeria and Ghana, and reeled out the huge differences.

The NCAA helmsman explained that for any of the charges to be repealed, it would have to go through the National Assembly and must be assented to by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

He also decried that out of the 5 per cent TSC/CSC, the agencies still remit 25 per cent of their revenues to the Consolidated Revenue Account created by the Federal Government and advised the operators to always cross check their facts before going to the public.

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He added: “NCAA relies 100 percent on its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). The 5 percent TSC paid by passengers is 85 percent of NCAA revenue, while the other 15 per cent comes from airlines as payment for services provided and they are all cost recovery. We don’t also impose any excess baggage charge on the airlines. I wonder where the operators saw this.

“The airlines have intentionally refused to pay the debts owed us despite the fact that they have collected such from the passengers. The airlines collect money and refuse to transmute such to the right authorities. AON wants us to provide services for free for them. What the airlines are trying to do is to make the NCAA defunct. You have refused to give us our legitimate money. The fees we are charging the airlines are just cost recovery and we are actually subsidising the airlines.”

Also, Mathew Pwajok, the acting managing director of NAMA, reiterated that the charges of the agency were minimal when compared to other countries around the world.

He, however, disclosed that the airlines owed them over N5 billion for services rendered to them over the years.

Rabiu Yadudu of FAAN, also disclosed that the airlines owe the agency N18 billion and debunked the claim that it charges the airlines indiscriminately as claimed in its letter.

He declared that FAAN was not imposing any new burden on the airlines, stressing that its landing and parking charges for international operators were last reviewed in 1998, while for the local airlines, it was reviewed last in 2002.

He said that there was the need for the charges to be reviewed by the agency, stressing that within the period, the airlines had reviewed their air tickets on numerous occasions.

Responding, Alhaji Kashim Bukar, the managing director, Skyjet Airline, wondered why the DG NCAA brought the issue to the public glare.

He said that rather than make it a public issue, NCAA should have called the operators into a closed door meeting to discuss the issue.

Also, Edward Boyo, the managing director, Overland Airways and a trustee of AON, apologized to the NCAA for the letter.

“I’m a trustee member of AON. On behalf of AON, I hope to apologise to you in the letter. The letter wasn’t intended to have this effect. Some parts of the letter were inappropriate. We apologise and I want to crave your indulgence to drop the issue,” he said.

Besides, Allen Onyema, the Vice President, AON, said he was seeing the letter for the first time and expressed disappointment with some of the contents in it.

He regretted that there were factions in AON, which had prevented them from speaking in one voice.

Onyema agreed that he was at the meeting with the Ministry of Finance and Aviation where the issue of skyrocketing price of Jet A1 was discussed, but insisted that no one maligned the image of NCAA or any aviation agencies at the meeting.