Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has cautioned service providers, especially the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), to tread cautiously in their recent move to recover what it described as ‘phantom debts’ from domestic airlines
This is just as he said that airlines have been identified as soft targets to be preyed on further declaring that airlines cannot continue to pay for NAMA’s inefficiency and exuberant lifestyle.
The Chairman of AON, Captain Nogie Meggison who said the association was appalled by the move of the government agencies cautioned them not to run airlines out of business as they have also run many airlines out of business in the past from ridiculous billing.
Meggison said: “We strongly decry the ongoing action by the various government agencies in the aviation sector whereby they threaten to deny airlines services for their operations or completely ground them as this is likely to force airlines out of business.”
He noted further that; “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.”
According to him, without the airlines there is no aviation in the first place. It is because of the airlines that airports are built and managed by FAAN. 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.
He said, “This kind of cruel hostility has stifled airlines in the past and is one of the issues responsible for many Nigerian airlines going out of business in the past twenty years including the likes of 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, Virgin Nigeria etc.”
“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 further declared that domestic airlines worldwide do not pay enroute charges; wondering why it is done in Nigeria and also stated that the total radar coverage and enroute navigation were not in operation in 2001 and airlines were mandated by the NCAA to use GPS for navigation which was independent of NAMA.
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 said, “Also not surprising, 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 EFCC.It must be stressed that NAMA’s primary/Sole duty is to provide air navigation services. Sadly, as of today, NAMA has about 300 Air Traffic Controllers with a staff strength of over 4807 Staff. The airlines therefore cannot continue to pay for their inefficiency and exuberant lifestyle.”