DRAMA ensued at the House Committee on Aviation hearing yesterday as different factions of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) arrived the Green Chambers with different position papers on the new ground handling threshold.
The meeting held at the House of Representatives new building at the National Assembly Complex was at the instance of the House Committee on Aviation to discuss review of safety threshold ground handling charges by the NCAA.
Sources said both factions of the AON came with the policy papers, with the Captain Ibrahim Mshelia led faction allegedly consisting of twenty (20) of the thirty-five (35) membership of the AON bent on getting their position heard as well as the faction led by Alhaji Dr. Abdulmunaf Yunusa Sarina.
According to the Mshelia-led faction, the AON was split between 15 and 20 and was in court to settle that matter stating that the AON which has 15 members cannot represent the body which boasts of 35 members especially in such an important matter.
In their paper submitted to and acknowledged by Clerk to the Committee, Bassey E. Edem, the Mshelia faction said there were a lot of misinformation going round and did not want the National Assembly to be hoodwinked with distortion of facts.
Accordingly, the group charged the House to be neutral in the matter of this price regime stressing that the matter should be treated with an open market approach.
The group said that it was wrong for the other group to make the Honourable House believe that aviation and air fares are under threat due to ground handling charges.
According to recent reports already ground handlers in Nigeria are operating at a loss and taking scraps
The position paper read,”Agreed, Covid-19 has hit us all as operators, as well as the handling companies. But in the opinion of the AON faction I belong to, it is a gross misconception, misrepresentation and also misleading, to be telling our Honourabe Representatives what is not true.
“All service providers duly registered and certified by NCAA to provide service(s), from airlines to caterers, including the handling agencies have got the right to also make a presentation to the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation as well as make similar complaints. They (Ground handlers) equally use equipment they also import like we airlines, their equipment are special and they don’t buy them in local markets too. They are subjected to sourcing for these things with forex as the airlines do.
Recall these were some of the reasons put forward by Ground handlers to lobby for increasing the safety threshold of handling charges which when compared with other countries in Africa were far from being appropriate as an operation that cost $4,000 elsewhere was done in Nigeria at $400 (International flights)
NigerianFLIGHTDECK reported in early September that the NCAA approved a new charge rate which was last amended in 1986 to commence from October 1, 2021 (international carriers) and January 1, 2022 for domestic operators.
NCAA, according to information received, has now approved between $1,500 and $5,000 (passenger and cargo flights) for handlers for a narrow and wide body aircraft, respectively, while for domestic operators will now pay between N20,000 and N70,000, depending on the aircraft type.
Narrow body aircraft include Boeing B737, Airbus A320, ER 135 and ATR, while wide body aircraft are B767, A330, B777, B747 and B787.
Already, it was learnt that the other group of the AON told the House Committee on Aviation that they were not aware of the new pricing regime the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) approved despite NCAA through a meeting with the media said all AON was represented while the mutual decision was taken.
Meanwhile, officials that the NCAA equally brought documentary evidence of attendance of the meeting where the decision was was taken but were denied to make presentation by the Committee who insisted that it must be the Director General who was out of the country but was well represented by competent directors in the regulatory body.
Also when the House Committee on Aviation refused the faction led by the West Link boss opportunity to defend his presented paper, Captain Mshelia was said to have excused himself from the meeting and taken leave feeling it was not a fair hearing.