…Says Local Airlines Don’t Pay Enroute Charges Worldwide
…Calls On Agencies To Apply Caution On Debt Collection
The Chairman of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Capt. Nogie Meggison has said that airline will not continue to pay for the inefficiency and Exuberant life style of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).
AON’s reaction is coming on the heels of the threat by the airspace agency to deny airlines services for their operations or completely ground them; a situation the airline body said is likely to force airlines out of business.
The AON boss contended that the inefficiencies of the NAMA and other agencies have killed several airlines and are trying to stifle the few surviving ones to pay for their inefficiencies.
To buttress his point, he cited the N30 billion debt NAMA alleged airlines owe it, adding that the bills are two separate debts namely; that before the Supreme Court judgment and that after the Supreme Court judgment.
He stated that most of the airlines that existed before the Supreme Court judgment were no longer in operation.
According to him, “Because of the inefficiencies of the agencies, they have killed several airlines and are trying to stifle the few surviving ones to pay for their inefficiencies. For example, the purported N30 Billion NAMA bills are two separate debts namely; that before the Supreme Court judgment and that after the Supreme Court judgment. Moreover, most airlines that existed before the Supreme Court judgment are no longer in operation.”
Arguing further, Meggison pointed out that domestic airlines worldwide do not pay enroute charges, wondering why Nigeria’s situation should be different.
The Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria(TRACON) and enroute navigation, he stated were not in operation in 2001 and that then airlines were mandated by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority(NCAA) to use Global Positioning System(GPS)system for navigation, which was independent of NAMA.
NAMA, the AON boss, said should not forget the fact that the then Aviation Minister, Mrs Fidelia Njeze, had intervened and canceled the pre judgment bills with respect to navigational and enroute charges which is on record both with The Federal Ministry of Aviation and NAMA that it should be written off because the services were not provided.
According to him, “The current economic downturn being experienced in the country will cripple any airline that is expected to pay the already cancelled debts. However, the few surviving AON members are ready to pay their currently existing bills.”
He noted that in NAMA for example there have been several allegations of financial impropriety involving some staff of the agency to the tune of huge sums of monies in billions of Naira that are currently being arrested and investigated by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission(EFCC)and that the agency also have a staff strength of over 4,807 of which close to 300 are Air Traffic Controllers(ATC),adding that the airlines cannot continue to pay for the agency’s inefficiency and exuberant life style.
On the phantom debts, Meggison said that most of the debts are owed by moribund airlines, adding that denying airlines services can only worsen the situation, as according to him only operational airlines can pay debts.
In 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.”
He noted that apart from the fact that this kind of cruel hostility had stifled airlines in the past, it was also one of the reasons for the death of many Nigerian airlines in the past 20 years.
He listed airlines that the airlines to include: 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 and Virgin Nigeria among others .
Meggison advised agency to tread cautiously with the issue as it affects airline operators
“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. However, the agencies need to realize that air transport is the engine of the economy. Hence, if they disturb Nigerian airlines then they will damage the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari to restore the economy.” He said
He composited that without airlines there is no aviation in the first place and that it is because of the airlines that airports are built and managed by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN)
Meggison continued, “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.”