By Elizabeth Chukwuma
President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired army General, appears to have won himself into the heart of the Airline Operators of Nigeria, AON, over his timely intervention in removing the seven percent surcharge on imported aircraft and spares, that was collected by the Hameed Ali, a retired army Colonel led Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, that could have forced some of the airlines to fold up.
Prior to the Katsina state born Nigerian President intervention to remove the seven percent surcharge in order to save the nation’s Aviation industry from imminent Collapse, the Leadership of the AON, which have been working behind the scene had petitioned the Senate , under the close watch of Ahmad Liman,over their challenges. Ahmad, the Senate President was said to have referred the AON, Petition to the Committee on Aviation to handle.
The AON, had petitioned the Senate claiming that the delays in the insurance of the imported aircrafts and spares was caused by the outrageous surcharge, and which had caused some of their aircrafts that would be have been flying to be grounded .
A visitor to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Ikeja, Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe, International Airport would see some of AON, grounded aircrafts, which have incurred several months and years of parking charges. The fallout was the upsurge in flight delays and flight cancellations by the airline Operators as the few aircrafts owned by the Airline that are still flying could not the demand of the increasing number of Passengers.
Recall that over the years the number of air passengers, particular, from the Lagos-Abuja- Lagos routes and some other major routes , across the country, have increased phenomenally because of the activities of the Islamic Fundamentalist Group, the Islamic State of West African Province, ISWAP, insurgents, operating in the north east states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe and the Bandits which have made the north west states of Zamfara, Kaduna and Katsina, Buhari home state their base.
The Criminal gangs attack and other killer gangs kidnap people on the road who are taken to their numerous hideouts in the two regions in the north to Negotiate for ransom that runs into millions of naira. It is not surprising why many people who could have preferred to travel by road have resorted to travel by air to avoid giving room to the insurgents, Bandits or any other Criminal gang to attack them.
Informed sources told The Value News that the AON, had earlier reached out to Ali, the Customs Comptroller General to use Executive fiat to help them to facilitate the clearing of their newly arrived imported aircrafts and spares needed to fix their grounded aircrafts but that was how far they could go.
Allen Onyema, the Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of Peace and Vice Chairman , AON, may have heaved a sign of relief when he revealed that since the July 7th,2021, and now, the airlines have been clearing their aircraft spares without having ‘’to pay the seven percent surcharge initially collected by Ali’s officers at the Airport or seaports.
Hadi Sirika, minister of Aviation, was said to have facilitated the interactive meeting between the Senate Committee on Aviation and AON, on July 6, 2021, in order to address the their challenges, particular, resolving the issue of the seven percent surcharge on imported s aircraft and spares, needed to repair their grounded aircrafts at the various airports across the country.
The minister may have facilitated the meeting between the Lawmakers and AON, to ensure that the airlines resume full operaton in order to recover the N37 billion owed the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA . He had cited Arik, owes between N13 billion or N14 billion, and Bi-Courteny, which had owed N14 billion to the government agencies over the last 13 years but which it had denied ever owing the aviation agencies.
. It was also alleged that Peace , one of the operators, owed FAAN, alone N7 billion , following delay of the airlines’s flight from taking off as scheduled at Enugu airport, for services rendered till the end of April, 2021. The airline had denied owing the Aviation agency insisting that it was the agency that was indebted it for stalling its Operations at Enugu and must be properly Compensated.
Recall that Onyema, the CEO, OF Peace airline who was said to have led the other airline CEOs, to the interactive meeting with the Senate Committee on Aviation members had used the opportunity to make a presentation on behalf the Association highlighting the challenges faced by all the Airline Operators and the need for support.
Indeed, the AON, interactive meeting with the Lawmakers, may have yielded results as Onyema, the Peace Airline boss, confirmed that within 48 hours their demands were met as the retired army General came to their rescue with the removal of the seven percent surcharge on imported aircrafts and spares.
An elated Onyema, may have gladdened the heart of air paassengers when he confirmed that since July 7, 2021 and now, they have been’’ taking delivery of imported aircraft and spares without having ‘’to pay the initial mandatory seven percent surcharge which was eating deep into their lean finances in the past.
Note that due to the frequent delays and cancellation of scheduled flights by the airlines may have forced the Senate Committee on Aviation to intervene as part of their oversight function on July 6, 2021. Many believe that the removal of the seven percent surcharge on imported aircrafts and spares,the airlines should be ready to pay the debts owed FAAN and government agencies which runs into billions of naira.
Serika, the Aviation minister, had told hose that cares to listen that that they would ‘’go after the airlines to ensure that they pay what they owe’’. Ministry sources told the Magazine that the government agencies were reluctant to demand the multi-billion naira debts from the airlines over the last six years to avoid a backlash effect where the Nigerian public might react which further deepen the crisis in the sector.