By Chinedu Eze
Flight operations to some domestic destinations may be paralysed as the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) said it would withdraw services from yesterday midnight from the Kebbi Airport, Bebi Airstrip, Cross River and Gombe States airports over debts.
FAAN provides compulsory services like security, fire cover, marshalling and rescue operations in all the airports in the country as recognised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Without these services, the airports would be immediately shut down and this would adversely affect air travel in the yuletide season when there is huge passenger movement as airlines record the highest schedule flights.
The General Manager, Corporate Affairs of FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, who confirmed the withdrawal of services by the agency, said Gombe, Kebbi airports and Bebi airstrip owed FAAN a total of N808, 610, 160.
Yakubu said Gombe airport owes FAAN N607,289,972; Kebbi owes N124,547,240, while Bebi airstrip owes the agency N76,772,948.
A statement issued by the agency said: “Following a final notice of payment issued to the above airports over a month ago, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria hereby notifies airlines, passengers and the public that effective from midnight of December 9, 2018, we are constrained to withdraw the services of our security officers and airport fire and rescue services from Gombe, Kebbi and Bebi airports.
“This action has become imperative as the management of Gombe airport is indebted to the Authority to the tune of N607,289,972, while Kebbi and Bebi airports are indebted to the tune of N124,547,240 and N76,772,948 respectively, without any concerted effort to pay up the debts. The FAAN has issued a Notice To Airmen (NOTAM) to this effect in order to give operators into the airports the opportunity to review their logistics plan.”
In response to the NOTAM, Arik Air has announced that it would withdraw its operations from Gombe Airport, Osubi Airport in Warri and also move its Lagos-Port Harcourt flight services which emanates from MMA2 back to the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) of the Lagos airport, which is the airline’s operational base.
In a statement signed by Arik Air spokesman, Adebanji Ola, the airline said: “The FAAN has notified airlines of the withdrawal of services to Osubi and Gombe airports.
“In a NOTAM issued on December 8, 2018, FAAN stated that it would be withdrawing aviation security, firefighting and rescue operations from Bebi and Gombe airports from midnight of December 9, 2018.
“Consequently, Arik Air will be suspending its flights to Gombe airport and move Port Harcourt flights out of MMA2 from December 10, 2018, until further notice. All Arik Air flights to Omagwa Airport in Port Harcourt will as from the same date operate from Murtala MUhammed Airport Terminal One otherwise known as General Aviation Terminal (GAT).”
But FAAN in its statement was silent on withdrawing services from MMA2 and also did not say it would withdraw services from Osubi airport in Warri.
But Head of Communications of Dana Air, Kingsley Ezenwa, told THISDAY that the airline would not make a statement yet until after meeting with BASL, and expressed the hope that the matter would be resolved with FAAN without leading to the agency withdrawing its services.
Ezenwa said such withdrawal would drastically affect airlines and passengers this holiday season and hoped that there would be amicable resolution to the matter.
While reacting to comments on the adverse effect the withdrawal of services would have on flight operations, an official of FAAN, Funsho Shogunle, said the agency had decided to take this step as the last resort; after all other overtures to make the concerned agencies abide by their part of the bargain failed.