OrderPaperToday – Minister of aviation, Hadi Sirika, has disclosed that airlines are owing the federal government the sums of $6,993,234 and N19,365, 374,686, respectively.

The minister said this debt denies the airlines a locus to demand a reduction in service and contract charges imposed by regulatory agencies in the sector.

This disclosure followed a proposal from Airline Operators Nigeria (AON) seeking reduction in the cost of contract sales and service charge from 5% to 1.5%

Speaking at a 3-day public hearing on six executive bills on the aviation sector, with focus on Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) act on Monday, Sirika expressed his displeasure at the AON’s proposal.

A representative of the airlines association, Chinasa Unaegburam, triggered the reaction when she suggested an amendment to clause 23 of the NCAA Act.

She said: “The cost of imposing 5% contract sales and service charge. That 5% has been in 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. 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.”

She also proposed inclusion of operators in the board of the NCAA, since “they are people who are operating the airlines and they can give a perspective of policies. If we have a member of AON on the board, we can give a perspective particularly in the instance where the NCAA is going to be the sole regulatory body.

“If there is a member from AON, it is not going to change the policy but it is going to give an insight from the operator view. We are moving forward so we want to move the sector forward. It is something that we should consider.”

She opposed two year imprisonment proposed on non-remittance of charges by airline operators. “An airline should not be subject to a jail term from non remittance of charge. The whole section should be expunged”, Unaegburam said.

Responding to AON’s submissions, Sirika said: “We have concerns and they are very genuine. NCAA operates on cost recovery basis. They (AON) are owing us 6 million 993 thousand 234 dollars and N19 billion 365 million 374 thousand 686.

“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 can get a very robust civil Aviation act”.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Senate committee on Aviation, Smart Adeyemi, opposed the proposed bailout fund to airline operators and other businesses in the aviation sector.

According to him, the amount is inadequate to relieve the negative impact of Covid-19 on the aviation industry.

The senator said: “I think the FG should give the industry all the attention it deserves; substantive support. N4 billion is not enough. Yes you might say they are in business; but their business is the soul of our economy”.

Responding, the Minister affirmed that the bailout fund is inadequate but the ministry cannot afford more at the moment.

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