• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

NAMA squeezed as debt by domestic airlines reaches N8.08bn

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Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) is currently facing difficulties in carrying out effective and efficient operations and paying pensions to its retired staff as debts held by domestic airlines have reached N8.08 billion, BusinessDay findings show.

Some sources from government who craved anonymity told BusinessDay that the agency was currently struggling to stay afloat, as some domestic airlines had refused to pay for services the agency rendered to them from 2001 till 2013.

NAMA provides air traffic services in Nigeria, including air traffic control, visual and non-visual aids, aeronautical telecommunication services and electricity supplies relating thereto, to enable public transport, private business and military aircraft fly, as far as practicable and as possible.

According to documents disclosed by the sources, domestic airlines, including airlines that have stopped operations, owe the agency over N6.5billion, while private oil companies and state government owe over N1.5 billion, amounting to a sum of N8.08 billion.

According to the sources, “businesses must pay for the services they are rendered. Pensions and salaries of staff must be paid, but this may be difficult if this huge sum is tied down with the airlines.

Findings also show that several meetings have been called to resolve and negotiate with the airlines on how they can remit this money, but all efforts made to resolve the issue have proved futile.

Sources also reveal that if this continues, the agency may be forced to grand the operations of many domestic airlines, especially as they have the support of the government in ensuring the agency recovers all its debts.

However, airlines operating in Nigeria in recent times have been faced with aviation fuel scarcity, dollar scarcity, low traffic as a result of economic downturn and unfavourable government policies affecting capital flights.

Nogie Meggison, president, Airline Operators of Nigeria, said these times were the most difficult for airlines as they had called on the Federal Government to urgently help to address the problem that had caused airlines and passengers untold hardship.

Meggison stressed that Jet A1 scarcity had led to airlines experiencing acute shortage in recent times.

Kola Olayinka, regional commercial manager, West Africa, British Airways, said this was the best time for domestic airlines to begin to cooperate through interline and code share agreement, rather than operate individually so they do not go under.

According to Olayinka, “local airlines can focus on real development in this industry and explore their abilities to compete rather than waiting for bailouts.”