Airline operators owe FG $6.99m, N19.364m in unremitted fees

Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, on Monday accused airlines operating in the country of owning the Federal Government the sum of $6,993,234.00 and N19,365,374,686.00 in unremitted fees.

Also, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation, Senator Smart Adeyemi said that the N4billion earmarked by the Federal Government as bailout for airline operators to cushion the harsh effects of the COVID-19 pandemic was “too little.”

Sirika and Adeyemi spoke at the commencement of a three-day public hearing on the repeal and re-enactment of six Aviation Bill organized by the Senate Committee on Aviation in Abuja.

The Minister’s revelation followed comments by a representative of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Chinasa Unaegburam, who criticized a proposed five percent service charge to be paid by airlines in the Bill meant to Repeal and Re-enact the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Act.

Unaegburam said, “Clause 23 of the NCAA Bill seeks to impose a cost of five percent contract sales and service charge on airlines. That five percent has been in the law since 2006. Our proposal is that consideration be given to lowering that percentage.

“We are proposing that we have our fees at cost recovery so the aim is to ensure that these agencies are run efficiently in the system and that there is accountability and transparency.

“Putting these factors in place, we can then justify the retention of this five percent. But today members of the AON are groaning.

“We propose 1.5% but it is subject to negotiation. The operators have to operate efficiently which is a very important issue for the operators.

“Again, there is a provision for a two year imprisonment on non-remittance of charges.

“An airline should not be subjected to a jail term for non-remittance of a charge. The whole section should be expunged.”

However, in his response, Sirika said, “We have concerns and they are very genuine. NCAA operates on cost recovery basis. They (AON) are owing us $6, 993, 234.00 and N19, 365, 374, 686.00. She is proposing that the percentage goes down and the money is not there.

“These are monies we get from tickets and they ought to be remitting this money so that we can train more inspectors and keep the industry safe.

“We are here so we get a very robust civil Aviation Act.”

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