N15bn debt: Group asks EFCC to prosecute airline operators

N15bn debt: Group asks EFCC to prosecute airline operatorsThe Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals has called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to arrest and prosecute airline operators over the N15bn ticket and cargo sales charge they owe the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.

The NCAA had said that airlines owed it about N15bn from the five per cent ticket and cargo sales charge.

The Secretary General, ANAP, Abdulrasaq Saidu, who spoke to journalists on Thursday, accused the airlines of stealing public funds, adding that it was also an economic offence that if left unchecked could hamper growth in the industry.

He said, “The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission should intervene in the matter and investigate and arrest those responsible for this historical debt, which was amassed with little or no accountability to the government. This money they owe is stealing by trick of public funds, air travellers pay that five per cent charge; that money has never been a tax to any airline as some of them will erroneously lead people to believe.

“The money is a charge on passengers; the airlines only collect it on behalf of the government to allow facilitation. These payments were being made until Arik entered the fray and due to the impunity of the former managers, the indebtedness started and so other airlines joined suit, stating that if Arik was not remitting the charges, why should they?

“Even at those times, some unions would take action and then an order from Abuja would override whatever they have done and the debt would continue to rise.”

Saidu said the association would also help the agencies and service providers recover their debts through every legal means possible.

“We are calling on the EFCC because this is their purview. They need to come in as this anomaly is killing the industry. We disagree with the airlines that are trying to justify their criminal acts and impunity and spending public funds. The money is for aviation development,” he added.

He said the body became interested in the matter as it would affect its members whose salaries and other entitlements might not be paid by the affected agencies if the debt continued to rise.

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