Airlines operating in Nigeria owe the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority over N10bn, a development which has made the agency to introduce and begin the enforcement of the pay-as-you-go measure on the carriers.
The pay-as-you-go system entails airlines showing the evidence of regular payments on current charges, as well as providing proofs of part settlements of their old debts before enjoying the services of the agency.
Some of the airlines allegedly owing include Arik Air, Dana Air, Aero Contractors Airlines, the moribund Chanchangi and IRS Airlines, among others.Nigeria currently has about 23 active domestic airlines, according to the NCAA.
his is as the propensity of government officials for chartered flights, as against the use of regular commercial flights for duty tours, is also said to have reduced considerably since the assumption of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
The NCAA, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and Nigerian Meteorological Agency, on several occasions had decried the negligence of airlines in duly remitting charges meant for them (the government agencies).
Findings by our correspondents on Saturday showed that the airlines operating in Nigeria owed the NCAA alone over N10bn.
It was also learnt that while foreign airlines made attempts in terms of making remittances to the government and in settling their debts, domestic carriers were always found wanting.
The Acting General Manager, Public Affairs, NCAA, Mr. Sam Adurogboye, told our correspondents that the over N10bn debt owed the aviation agency were monies from the five per cent Ticket Sales Charge and Cargo Sales Charge payable by passengers.
On whether or not there was an ultimatum given the airlines to clear the debt, he said, “I am not aware of any ultimatum.”
When asked to speak on the debt owed his agency, he said, “On indebtedness, the total indebtedness of airlines to NCAA is over N10bn. We have devised a method of pay-as-you-go system. In this system, an airline is made to show evidence of regular payment on current charges and evidence of part settlement for the old debt before services are rendered by the authority.
“These figures arose from the five per cent Ticket Sales Charge and Cargo Sales Charge payable by passengers but which airlines collect on behalf of the authority. Foreign airlines are more prompt in payment of same. Problems have been with domestic airlines.”
The NCAA’s spokesperson, Adurogboye, while confirming the staggering amount owed the agency could, however, not disclose the exact figures owed by each airline, saying it may send wrong signals in the industry.
Adurogboye however confirmed that Arik Air truly owes the largest chunk of the debt perhaps because of their large operations.
The airline is said to have about 30 airplanes and operate about 150 flights per day on all its routes.
On the issue of chartered flights, Adurogboye said the change in conduct of government and public officials and the consequent reduction in chartered airline traffic is perceived to be due to the present administration’s firm stand with regards to prudence, accountability and corruption.
But the head, Corporate Communications, Arik Air, Banji Ola, while reacting to the airline being named among debtor airlines, challenged the NCAA to come clean on its financial status and those indebted to it.
Ola, who declined to comment on whether Arik truly has the largest debt profile to NCAA, said it awaits a proper and official pronouncement from the Agency before it would state its side on the matter.
“When you say airlines owe this much, what is even the profit of these airlines at the end of each year? How much do they make?” he asked.
Ola, however, disclosed that the most disturbing part is that NCAA, in the recent past, went into an agreement with airlines and banks to have the TSC deducted at source.
On his part, Communications Manager for Dana Air, Kingsley Ezenwa admitted that though Dana was part of the airlines owing NCAA, it had put in place a structure that ensured that every month something went to the agency in terms of payment to reduce the debt.