By Chinedu Eze
Members of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) have debunked the report that flights may start falling from the skies due to lack of aircraft maintenance, insisting that the operators would rather ground their service instead of cutting corners.
The operators were reacting to a report credited to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Aviation, Senator Smart Adeyemi, that the airlines were likely to cut corners in their operations if the present economic situation continues without intervention fund from the government, as the Nigerian Customs Service had reintroduced tariffs on aircraft spares.
The operators in a statement signed by their President, Abdumunaf Yunusa, said, ‘The attention of AON has been drawn to the reports in certain news media, quoting a Senator, saying that as a result of the financial problems brought to the airlines by the effects of COVID-19 and, as result of lack of adequate government bailouts for the airline, that the airlines had resorted to cutting corners.
“AON wishes to state categorically here that there is no iota of truth in this statement. Nigerian airlines have not cut corners, do not cut corners and will never cut corners. We want to believe that the distinguished Senator was misunderstood and quoted out of context because there is never any available fact supporting such a conclusion”.
In most of the media reports, the senator was quoted pleading with government to stop the Customs department from re-introducing the payment of duties and VAT on the importation of commercial aircraft, spares and engines, noting that the reintroduction was a flagrant disobedience to the Executive Order by President Muhammadu Buhari granting zero duty and zero VAT on the importation of commercial aircraft, aircraft spares and aircraft engines.
Adeyemi had said that such decision by the Customs could make the airlines to start cutting corners because of their inability to clear their imported aircraft spares.
“It was equally reported in most media that the Senator in asking that Nigerian airlines be supported with adequate bailout funding, warned that if this was not done, that some airlines may resort to cutting corners.
“We wish to state categorically that no Nigerian airline would cut corners under any circumstance. Nigerian airlines will never compromise safety under any circumstance. If the burden of running our business becomes unbearable as a result of the Custom duties and VAT, we would rather shut down and suspend our operations rather than cut corners.
“Again, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is alive to its duties and would never allow such to happen. Nigerian airlines, as a result of the stringent safety regime being run by the NCAA, are the safest in the world!” the AON said.