The Federal Government has stated its willingness to crack down on debtors in the aviation sector, where accumulated debt has reached N37 billion. Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation, stated yesterday at the weekly ministerial briefing that Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL) and Arik Airline are the largest debtors to various aviation agencies.
In a related development, the Federal Government has directed airline operators to reimburse passengers for the full cost of travel tickets after a two-hour delay.
Sirika stated in November 2020 that the total debt burden of local airlines to regulatory agencies stood at N22 billion. Unremitted Ticket Sales Charge (TSC) and Cargo Sales Charge (CSC) collected on behalf of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and its sister agencies totaled N19.37 billion and $6,993,284 million (N2.7 billion), according to a breakdown.
Yesterday, he said the debt had risen to N37 billion, causing concern among agencies and service providers to the sector. He stated that the government had used great discretion in handling the situation, but vowed that the authorities would not hesitate to pursue the debtors.
“In fact, service providers in our system have said, ‘These guys owe us, we should deduct the money from the money given as palliatives.’ We said no; President Buhari’s intention is to mitigate the impact on businesses. Let us figure out a way to survive, and they can take the money.
“This raises the issue of the money owed to the parastatals. They owe about N37 billion, with Arik being the main culprit. I’m aware that they owe us approximately N14 billion. You owe FAAN if you owe the government. As of the last count, Bi-Courtney owed approximately N14 billion. It has not paid a single dime since it began operating the terminal building. And we haven’t stopped providing him with things like electricity, water, and fire protection. He hasn’t paid anything in 13 years.
“And if we go to close his doors, the media and Nigerians will say we are killing businesses, but he is also killing our services. Because we need that money to provide for the toilet you’re looking at in Lagos International Airport. We’ll go after the cash.”
The BASL facility in question, Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal II (MMA2) in Lagos, is the subject of a lingering dispute between BASL and FG/FAAN over breaches of agreement, for which Bi-Courtney has also claimed N200 billion in compensation.
BASL, the operator of Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos Terminal Two (MMA2), denied any debt to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) in a statement issued by its spokesman, Mikail Mumuni. “On the contrary, it is FAAN that owes Bi-Courtney over N200 billion by depriving it of its legitimate earnings over the past 14 years,” he said in a statement Thursday night.
This, he claimed, arose as a result of FAAN opening and operating the General Aviation Terminal (GAT), thus competing with BASL for government funds in the operation of the Domestic Terminal, a clear violation of the concession agreement.
“In accordance with the dispute resolution process outlined in the agreement, BASL received an arbitration award in its favor. It also received a High Court decision, six Court of Appeal decisions, and a Supreme Court decision, all of which were in its favor and upheld the monetary award,” he said.
Mumuni emphasized that the courts ruled that any debt alleged by FAAN against BASL should be deducted from the credit judgement after proper verification.
He went on to say that “the N14 billion debt mentioned by the Minister is completely inconsistent with the demand by FAAN, the body that has been liaising with BASL.” Their most recent demand was for N1 billion, to which BASL promptly responded, stating unequivocally that there was no such debt.”
“We believe that Minister was not properly briefed by FAAN because we also pay our electricity bills on time,” Mumuni said. We also provide elaborate security at the terminal, which has received praise from stakeholders. ”
In response to multiple flight delays and cancellations, Sirika stated that consumers have rights that airlines must start respecting. “On domestic flights that are delayed for more than one hour, the carrier should provide refreshment as well as one phone call, SMS, or e-mail. They should send you an SMS, email, or call to apologize for the one-hour delay.
“In the event of a delay of more than two hours, the carrier must reimburse passengers for the full value of their tickets.” In the event of a delay between 10:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m., the carrier must provide hotel accommodation, refreshment, a meal, two free calls, SMS, email, and airport transportation.”
The Minister, who stated that his ministry has begun sanctioning some airlines for violating consumer rights, urged passengers not to be disruptive at airports.
The Minister went on to say that the Federal Government will develop a “simple policy” to govern the use of drones for both private and commercial purposes. He believes that a lack of regulation for drones could lead to “disaster” in the civil aviation space. Sirika, on the other hand, did not specify how or when the government or the relevant agency, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, would begin regulating drone users.
Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles that are piloted remotely from the ground by aviators or their owners. “There are now remotely piloted aircraft and unmanned beings or aircraft as it is, or drones as you may call them,” the Minister told journalists. They’re becoming their own phenomenon. Everyone is now flying drones. They are for good purposes; you now fly drones to find pipeline vandalism or breakage or to conduct integrity tests; you now fly drones to many places to order pizza, send birthday gifts, and so on and so forth.
“Very soon, we will find our airspace dotted with all of these craft, and managing them alone will be a huge challenge because they will be operating within the airspace and someone will need to control them.
“As a result, we decided to develop a policy. When I last spoke about drones, I mentioned a friend of mine who was flying about three miles away from the (Aso) Villa. He was flying it at about 500 feet above ground level, towards the airport on the west side of town, at a speed of about 65 kilometers per hour.
“These drones are now carrying loads weighing 5kg, 10kg, or more. If this gentleman (a friend of mine) is simply flying this drone around and there is an inbound or taking off plane, it could collide with the plane, get ingested in the engine, and cause a disaster. And don’t think for a second that it won’t happen.
“As a result, we decided to create a policy for remotely piloted aircraft in order to organize and regulate them. We are policymakers, and our policies will keep our country safe and secure. The policy will be very simple: you will be able to walk in and buy drones while also adhering to the rules and regulations, even if you are an enthusiast,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) Nigeria released probe reports on an accident and seven serious incidents that occurred between 2010 and 2019, while preliminary reports on the crash of a military plane that killed the late Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, and ten others will be ready in a week.
The reports issued yesterday were accompanied by nine safety recommendations addressed to the regulatory body, affected airlines, and the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), among others.
According to Akin Olateru, Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) commissioned them to assist in the investigation, which is ongoing, and whether NAF makes that public is not AIB-call. N’s Olateru went on to say that the reports were the largest in a series and were part of efforts to improve air safety.
“The release of eight aircraft accident reports to the public at the same time is the largest haul since the establishment of AIB,” Olateru said. Since its inception in 2007, the bureau has issued a total of 67 reports and 220 safety recommendations, with 48 reports and 139 safety recommendations issued during the current administration.”
Among the findings released is a report on a serious incident involving a B737-500 operated by Air Peace Limited with the nationality and registration marks 5N-BRN that occurred on June 22, 2019 at Port Harcourt Airport, Omagwa, Rivers State.
Another serious incident occurred on July 10, 2011 at Benin Airport, Edo state, Nigeria, involving an HS-125-700A aircraft operated by Associated Aviation Limited with the nationality and registration mark 5N-BEX. Also included is a report on the serious incident involving a B737-200 aircraft with the nationality and registration marks 5N-BIF owned and operated by Chanchangi Airlines, which occurred on August 20, 2010 at Kaduna Airport, Runway 05, Kaduna State, Nigeria.
Report on a serious incident involving a Bombardier DHC-8-Q400 aircraft owned and operated by Arik Air Nigeria Ltd, with the nationality and registration marks 5N-BKX, on March 6, 2018, en route to Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana.
Report on a serious incident involving a Boeing 737-500 aircraft operated by Med-View Airline with the nationality and registration marks 5N-BQM, which occurred on July 23, 2019 at FL320 en route to Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos.
Report on the accident involving a Hawker Siddeley HS-125-800 XP aircraft owned and operated by SWAT Technology Limited, with the nationality and registration marks N497AG, which occurred on Runway 21, Port-Haven.