By Chinedu Eze
The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has pledged to offset all debts owed the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) by member airlines.
However, no deadline has been fixed by the domestic carriers, which said they are battling to remain operational amid many disincentives, which include scarcity of aviation fuel, poor facilities at some airports and high charges.
Prompted by gross revenue deficit, the NCAA Director General, Captain Muhtar Usman met with the management of AON, led by its executive chairman, Captain Nogie Meggison along with prominent airline operators where agreement was reached that the debts would be rescheduled and payments made to the regulatory body.
Speaking on behalf of the operators, the AON Chairman, Captain Meggison remarked that it was incontrovertible that operators were heavily indebted but promised that all unremitted funds would be fully paid.
He thanked the Director General for holding series of meetings with all operators; a move he said was long expected.
Meggison therefore requested for similar meeting where the Authority’s vision would be properly articulated from time to time to enable airlines keep abreast of developments in the agency.
He, however, called for a retreat where stakeholders would meet to brainstorm on some knotty challenges, which operators and the entire industry have confronted with over the years.
In his response, Usman enjoined the airlines to comply as agreed because the issue of ticket and cargo sales charges was sacrosanct.
He explained that the charges were to enable the Authority and other benefitting agencies effectively carry out its regulatory and statutory responsibilities.
Usman said the NCAA management emphasised the need for automation by operators, which would offer real-time and transparent transaction and directed that all reconciliations must be done within the 60 days window provided.
He advised the operators to forward all required documentations to verify conflicting claims.
Also, he urged the operators to be alive to their responsibilities and challenges and called on them to take advantage of various Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASA) entered into by the federal government to compete with their foreign counterparts, thereby generating the much-needed foreign exchange.
The DG also assured the operators that there would be a broader stakeholders’ forum very soon where various grievances could be looked into and addressed and charged them to fully embrace the Automation process for the sake of transparency and an end to discrepancy over debt figures forthwith.
Over 20 airlines chief executives and their representatives attended the meeting and these include Arik Air, Medview, FirstNation, Chanchangi, Kings Airlines, Overland Airways among others some of who also contributed richly to the issue of the day while the meeting lasted.