INDUSTRY think tank group, the Aviation around a Table ( ART), has condemned the closure of Osubi Airport, Warri due to high navigational charges by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).
This is just as it has been reported that the two major airlines to the Osubi Airstrip, Aero and Arik Air run a daily loss of about N16, 520, 000 and if multiplied by 49 days currently, those airlines have lost N809, 480, 000
Recall that NAMA in September shut down the airport for a debt , allegedly exceeding N500 million owed by Shoreline Energy International which led to the withdrawal of Air Traffic services from the airport. With the air traffic controllers not in the tower, no aircraft could land or takeoff from the airport.
According to the ART, the airport started as a hub for non-scheduled and charter operations and has grown to providing scheduled services which has eased pains of passengers flying to Warri and other neighboring cities tremendously while growing the Nigerian economy in general, Delta state in particular.
ART, in its statement made available to the media by Olumide Ohunayo stated that it is of the opinion that the airport is certified by NCAA to operate scheduled flights and its tariffs approved accordingly in line with Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations ( NCARs ).
Therefore, there should have been an agreement between NAMA and the operators of Warri airport on tariffs before the deployment of Air Traffic services.
“We advise all parties as a necessity to urgently come together and resolve all issues as stipulated in the regulations so we can ameliorate pains of the travelling public, air operators, staff and all concerned stakeholders,” the statement read.
Director of Finance at NAMA, Umoh Aniefiok, who confirmed the debt of over N500 million “as at the last count”, added that the withdrawal of services was the last resort after all other means had been exhausted.
Our correspondent learnt that the aeronautical services debt had continued to pile up since Shell Petroleum Development Company transferred ownership of the airport to an indigenous energy and infrastructure company in 2015.
According to Aniefiok, the current owners and managers of the facility “simply refused to pay, saying the services are government-owned, forgetting that the cost of training and salary of the controllers are just as much as what is spent on pilots.”