Indigenous airlines under the aegis of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) have denied that they converted over N19 billion to “personal use.”
Vice-President of AON, Barr. Allen Onyema, in a statement on Wednesday, said while some of their members have bad debts being owed the agencies, not all members are owing.
NCAA had on Tuesday threatened to ground airlines over inability of airlines operators to remit the statutory ticket sale charge (TSC), cargo sale charge (CSC) and passenger service charge.
The TSC and CSC are collected by airlines on behalf of the agencies including the NCAA, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), among others.
NCAA DG, Capt. Musa Nuhu, who spoke during a stakeholders’ meeting in Abuja gave the operators one month ultimatum to come up with a payment plan to avoid being grounded.
“The airlines have intentionally refused to pay the debts owed us despite the fact that they have collected such from the passengers. The airlines collect money and refuse to transmute such to the right authorities.
“AON wants us to provide services for free for them. What the airlines are trying to do is to defunct NCAA. You have refused to give us our legitimate money. The fees we are charging the airlines are just cost recovery and we are actually subsidising the airlines,” he had said.
But AON expressed reservations over the accusations that its members were defrauding government agencies.
“The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) wishes to state its very strong reservations for such accusations and we deny very strongly that our members are defrauding or defrauded government agencies of the said amount or any amount for that matter. Airline operations, worldwide, is not a cash and carry business. Every airline in the world owes debts which are settled as their operations go on. Nigeria is not an exception.
“It is true that some of our members have very bad debts but not all our members owe such debts. The owing of debts in itself does not amount to fraud. We frown very strongly at the criminalization of all Nigerian airlines as a result of the said debts.
“Various parties were present at a stakeholders’ meeting and the DG NCAA did not at any time use such words to describe Nigerian airlines. Rather, the meeting ended on an amicable note with everyone agreeing to work together to address the debts.
“It is pertinent to point out that some of these debts are owed by some airlines that are no longer in existence. We, however, advise our members with such bad debts to engage the agencies and put forward repayment plans. Airlines in Nigeria are operating under very harsh environment and need all the support from everyone,” the statement added.