Air controllers plan to withdraw services from Airlines

LAGOS – The aviation sector may yet again be thrown into another round of crisis as air traffic controllers have concluded plans to withdraw their services from airlines following huge debts running into several billions of naira owed by the carriers for air traffic services.

If they make good their plans, the country’s aviation may witness a situation similar to last year when Arik Air and some airlines were shut down by aviation agencies over debts.

The group is equally irked by other debts owed the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the Nigeria College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) said to be 5 per cent remittances on all tickets sold by airlines, popularly referred to as Tickets Sales Charge (TSC).

Aviation minister stella oduahAir traffic services are under the control of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and this is a recurring problem between the airlines and the agency, which alleged that its operations are hampered by lack of remittance of navigation charges by the airlines.

A few years ago, former Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Fidelia Njeze had brokered truce between the operators and NAMA on how outstanding debts estimated at over N3 billion could be spread over two years to ensure that there were no disruptions in flight operations.

Njeze also introduced the pay-as-you-go policy to make sure that operators pay in advance for services rendered to eliminate accumulated debts, but nobody knows if the policy was rescinded immediately after she vacated office. Also, nobody knows exactly what the airlines owe NAMA currently.

Sources told The Guardian that the debts could be as high as N4 billion for airlines that are still in operation while others may have been written off for airlines that have gone into extinction.

The air traffic controllers under their umbrella body, Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers’ Association (NATCA) yesterday called on the Federal Government and well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on all domestic airlines to remit their outstanding Ticket and Cargo Sales Charges TSC to aviation agencies without further delay to enable them meet their obligations.

President and scribe, Victor Eyaru and Banji Olawole, respectively noted that indebtedness by domestic airlines to various aviation agencies have crippled funding of their facilities and operations in a bid to ensure continuous air safety.

While expressing deep concern over the looming danger to air safety, in the country as a result of non remittance of TSC running into several billions of naira collected on behalf of aviation agencies, NAMA, NCAA, NIMET and NCAT by domestic airlines, NATCA said these organisations require huge funds to procure and maintain, train their manpower and to be able to discharge their functions reliably well.

“It is obvious that non-remittance of this fund by domestic airlines would jeopardize the ability of the agencies to finance their safety critical functions. This is unsafe to air navigation within the Nigerian airspace and calls for serious actions”

NATCA vowed to support any legitimate means adopted to ensure remittance of the outstanding charges and prompt remittance of subsequent collections adding that air safety cannot be toyed with stressing that anything done to achieve this on daily basis was highly desirable”.

The duo stated that failure to remit these monies is depriving the agencies their major source of funding and a direct disaster, adding that now is the time to act.

The group declared that NATCA as a major stakeholder in the provision of safety services in the aviation industry would not hesitate to withdraw the service of its members to any defaulting and non cooperating airlines.

– THE GUARDIAN

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