NAMA, Airlines In ‘Roforofo’ Fight

Anytime airlines are asked to reconcile their debts with all the aviation agencies, that is when you begin to hear excuses, intimidation and blackmail from the operators, accompanied by threats of shutting their operations. Airlines in Nigeria are known to behave irresponsibly each time they are asked to pay up.

This article does not in any way, support the actions of the agencies in their revenue recovery drive. Most times they apply tactics that are crude in their revenue drive.

They engage the services of aviation union members who apply uncivilised method to recover debts when agency such as the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) could simply have just denied them take-off clearance rather than the Gestapo method of intimidating and vandalising their property.


However, Nigerian airlines have reputation for shying away whenever it comes to them settling their debts. NAMA incurred the ire of airlines penultimate week when the agency said it would ground carriers that owe them over N8 billion. NAMA’s threat seemed to have paid off as the agency, had already recovered over N300 million.

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Rather than look for amicable way of resolving the matter, airline operators under the aegis of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) whipped up sentiments, reminding Nigerians that the agencies provide poor services and want to run them out of op-eration.

That NAMA and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) provide less than satisfactory services to the airlines is not debatable, but the crux of the matter is for the carriers to remit what they have collected on behalf of the agencies to them.

The author of AON press statement, Capt Noggie Meggison, veered off the subject at hand, as he tried in vain to bring in issues that are not related to the debt issue.

There are rules of business engagement. Meggison described airlines’ debts as phantom. The airlines should come out to tell Nigerians how much they owe and try as much as possible to pay up for the survival of the agencies, which spend so much money to provide these services.

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Agreed that there are many charges imposed on airlines by government, as a pressure group, one would have expected the operators to engage government with the aim of asking to be exempted on some charges, but to blackmail the agencies anytime you are asked to come and pay what you owe is akin to shifting the goal post each time your opponent scores a goal. How come foreign airlines operating to Nigeria do not owe?

It was discovered that British Airways, in the heat of the faceoff between it and the Nigerian government over Arik five years ago paid N1 billion in taxes and charges to Nigeria in one year.

How come Nigerian airlines do not owe agencies of the nations they operate to? It is simply a case of robbing the system to remain afloat. Many Nigerian carriers have been indicted and known to have kept the five per cent Ticket Sales Charge (TSC) they have already collected as part of tickets sold.

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They have diverted these funds running into over N20 billion to other businesses outside aviation and to acquiring properties abroad. Nigerian airline operators need to think outside the box, re-strategise to remain in business.

The era of doing it all alone is gone. Airlines all over the world are consolidating through mergers, partnership to cut cost and to remain profitable. Of what use is 10 airlines that are very small and fragmented when these carriers can pool resources together to form a formidable airline group?



Wole Shadare