By Chinedu Eze
Domestic airlines have said some of the charges they pay to aviation agencies, estimated at N10 billion per annum, are arbitrary and illegal, saying they should be stopped immediately.
The airlines alleged that the agencies did not secure the approval from the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) before introducing the charges, as stipulated in the 2006 Civil Aviation Act.
A senior official of one of the major domestic carriers told THISDAY that those charges that did not get the approval of NCAA ought not to be paid by the airlines because they are illegal charges.
“All charges have to be approved by NCAA. There should be discussion with all stakeholders before charges are introduced but nothing like that has occurred. This regulation is contained in 2006 Civil Aviation Act. When Fidelia Njeze was the Minister of Aviation she directed the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) to present their charges to the then Director-General of NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren for approval but the management of FAAN then said they were not answerable to NCAA.
“This is enshrined in the Civil Aviation Act and if they make a law they should abide by the law, so why is FAAN and NAMA refusing to do so? They ought to call the meeting of airlines and discuss with them on the charges from NAMA and FAAN. The charges are even discriminatory because it is alleged that some airlines are exempted from paying some charges leveled on others,” the official told THISDAY.
The source also urged the Minister of State, Aviation to invite an independent body to reconcile accounts between the agencies and the airlines, noting that the high charges leveled on the airlines are threatening their existence.
“As at June this year we paid the agencies N20.1 billion and this can be verified. The agencies have to sit down and reconcile with us. Government should set up a committee of independent people to look into the matter,” the official said.
Also the Chairman of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Captain Nogie Meggison confirmed that arbitrary charges are levied on the airlines, adding that the charges are outrageous and that is why the existence of the airlines is being threatened.
“All charges have to be approved by NCAA. There should be discussion with all stakeholders but nothing like that has occurred,” an official of Arik Air told THISDAY.
But an NCAA source said that there is conflicting issue about the autonomy of FAAN, which was being deliberated and was expected to be rectified by the National Assembly, adding that technically the Act that established FAAN designated it as autonomous but NCAA is the regulator of the industry, which automatically makes FAAN subordinate to its rules until the Act is repealed, FAAN officials would always argue on its autonomy, especially in areas that do not have to do with safety and security of flight operations.