These debts are owed to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). They range from five per cent service charge, landing and parking to en-route navigational charges.
Permanent Secretary, Hajia Binta Bello, Head of Finance in FAAN met with Arik Air in Abuja on Wednesday to review the airline’s debts and a committee was set up, which would reconcile the debts and meet with the Permanent Secretary in one or two weeks.
The Ministry of Aviation and the agencies were also billed to meet with other airlines subsequently and the objective was to reconcile the debts so that both the airlines and the concerned agencies would agree on how much is owed and how the debts would be liquidated.
A FAAN source told the media on Wednesday that the agency defended the debts it claimed were owed by Arik Air but admitted that airlines actually capitalise on the conflicting figures, which the agency publishes because almost all the time the figures given out by the individual airports conflict with the ones given by the headquarters.
“But whatever it is the fact is that we have rendered the service and they owe us so that they have to pay. FAAN is not able to sustain operations, recruit and train personnel as old workers retire because of paucity of funds. Our aviation security is grossly understaffed. We need to train more people because many airports have opened since the last five years but we do not have enough number of personnel to adequately man the gates and other areas. We have viable and unviable airports; it is the money we make from the viable ones that we use to maintain the unviable ones. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has a regulation that all the airports must be kept open in case of emergency,” the source said.
Also, a senior official in FAAN who was part of the team that met with Arik Air and the Permanent Secretary acknowledged that the airline disputed the debts because of the conflicting figures and when asked whether the airlines owed as much as N100 billion, the source said he was not sure but the debts could be close to that.
FAAN also has another challenge; it lumped both old debts and the new debts together and some of the old debts are owed by airlines that had gone under and this constitutes a problem in identifying the actual debts owed by airlines.
“We used to lump these together but we have started separating them. We have bad debts but there are some debts we can still recover because although those airlines are no more operating but they still have assets. We can get their assets. If we make serious cases we can recover our debts. Some of these debts owed by the airlines include passenger service charge, landing and parking, rent, electricity. We need these monies to run the airports,” the FAAAN official said.
Media investigation revealed that all the agencies do not have actual figures of debts owed them by the airlines and that explains why many of the airlines are contesting the debts, including the ones owed to NAMA and NCAA.
Some of these debts accrue from charges added to the airline fares and not monies to be deducted from airlines’ revenues and this include 5 per cent charge by NCAA.