Paucity of Funds Threatens NAMA Operations

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 By Chinedu Eze

Lack of funds has made it difficult for the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) to carry out its financial obligations, THISDAY investigations have revealed.

Sources familiar with the agency’s operations hinted that it is facing great difficulty in funding the maintenance of its critical equipment as well as payment of staff remunerations and pensions to its retired personnel owing to airlines’ huge indebtedness to it (NAMA).

The debts, which were traced to 2001 include the ones Nigerian airline operators refused to pay from 2001 to 2013, which attracted litigation that was later won at the Supreme Court by the agency.

NAMA provides very critical services fundamental to flight operations including air traffic control, visual and non-visual aids, aeronautical telecommunication services that enhance commercial, private and military aircraft fly in and out of Nigeria’s airspace.

The breakdown of these debts, THISDAY gathered revealed domestic airlines including the ones that had closed operations in Nigeria owe the agency over N6.5billion, while private oil companies and state governments are indebted to it to the tune of N1.5billion, totalling N8.08billion naira.

“Airlines and other businesses must pay for the services they are rendered. Pensions and salaries of staff must be paid but this may be difficult if this huge sum is tied down with the airlines,” a source at the agency told THISDAY.

THISDAY also gathered that NAMA owes its retired staff about N18billion, which accumulated over the years and with the dwindling revenues due to these debts, it finds it difficult to carry out this obligation as internally generated revenue dependent agency, which has the obligation to also remit 25 percent of its earnings to the federation account.

NAMA and the airlines have engaged in several meetings. It was gathered that while some of the airlines strive to offset their bills, others have not even agreed on the terms of liquidating their own debts.

However, the airlines that owe the agency are also going through their own financial trauma as Nigerian operators are faced with aviation fuel scarcity, dollar scarcity, low traffic as a result of economic downturn and unfavorable government policies that cause capital flights.

The Chairman, Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Captain Nogie Meggison said in a statement that these times are the most difficult for airlines, which must be ingenious in order to survive.

The airlines have therefore called on the federal government to urgently help to address the problem, which has caused airlines and passengers untold hardship.

Also the Regional Commercial Manager, West Africa, British Airways, Kola Olayinka said this period is the best time for domestic airlines to go into merger and partnership and embrace interline and code share agreements, rather than operate individually so they don’t go under.

According to Olayinka, “Local airlines can focus on real development in this industry and explore their abilities to compete rather than waiting for bailouts.”