NAMA’s Revenue Dwindles, Borrows N3.1bn For Salaries

  • IATA remits $200,000 to agency

 

  • BASA fund depletes to $413,658

 

 Following the crisis that has engulfed the aviation sector lately, revenue accruing to the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has dwindled drastically, leading to an intervention by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, to secure N3.1 billion as loan for July salaries.

The intervention also prevented workers at the agency from embarking on strike, even though there is no assurance as to where August salaries will come from.

The agency’s workers’ unions have, however, vowed not to entertain any form of pay cut. There are indications that the loan may have come from Aviation Security (AVSEC) naira accounts, which stands at N3.95 billion, while the balance in the dollar account stands at $75.44 million as at July 11, 2020

Aviation security tax was introduced in 2009 by the Federal Government when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, popularly referred to as the “Underwear Bomber,” was nabbed while trying to blow up a transatlantic flight on Christmas Day in 2009.

Abdulmutallab had connected a flight to Detroit through Lagos and Amsterdam and attempted to blow off the aircraft he was travelling.

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Documents obtained by Woleshadarenews show that the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) account, which hitherto had over $100 million before the remodelling of the major airports across the country between 2012 and 2014, has a balance of $414,656.84 as at June 11, 2020.

 

Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos

 

President, Aviation Round Table (ART), Dr. Gabriel Olowo, had in 2016, called for the establishment of an inter-governmental agency stakeholder group led by the regulator for the administration and management of BASA funds and for implementing aviation development plans.

In 2014, BASA fund, which accruals had risen to over $100 million, was tampered with and allegedly diverted to fund projects outside the aviation sector and one that was not clearly accounted for. BASA funds are monies which accrued from royalties paid by airlines that Nigerian carriers do not operate into their country.

A top official of NAMA, who pleaded anonymity, told our correspondent that the management of the agency held a meeting with the unions two weeks ago to “open our books to them and to tell them how NAMA had not generated enough money to pay.”

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“That was the reason we resorted to the idea of paying them half salaries until the minister, who has been doing so much to ensure relations between the agency and workers do not breakdown, assisted the agency with loans to sustain us.

“You know ban on international air travel has not been lifted. That is where majority or 85 per cent of our revenue comes from,” the source added.

The airspace agency has run out of resources for its operations, which are capital intensive, coupled with the fact that remittances from the International Air Transport Association (AIB) are too little.

The $200,000 that IATA remitted to NAMA for the month of July was revenue that accrued to the country from over-flight and remains a far cry from the N3 billion monthly wage of the agency.

For the month of August, the situation could be slightly better because of a little improvement in air travel. It, however, can never be enough to pay salaries and run some of the huge operations of the agency.

IATA, the clearing house for over 290 global airlines, is also the clearing house for NAMA when it comes to reconciling over-flight and international airspace transactions among others.

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The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the financial underbelly of many of the aviation agencies. Just last month, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) showed its vulnerability as the airports authority said it could no longer meet its monthly N3 billion spent on salaries and wages occasioned by COVID-19.

The huge monthly wage bill of the agency, said to run into more than N3 billion, can no longer be met, thereby leading to slashing of salaries of workers on grade levels 8 and above by 50 per cent while those on levels one to seven were paid their full salaries.

FAAN, regarded as the cash cow of the aviation industry in Nigeria, relies on so many sources of revenue generation. Since the pandemic, the agency’s revenue has been drying up. The authority is in serious financial situation.

Wole Shadare