…flay N14.7bn debts
Airline operators under the aegis of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has called on the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to open its books to scrutiny just as it challenged the aviation regulatory body to release the breakdown of how it arrived at ‘phantom’ bills of N15 billon said to be debts of domestic carriers. This call was made in a position paper made available to New Telegraph by Chairman, AON, Capt. Noggie Meggison.
He challenged NCAA to publish the details of the airlines and what they owe, stressing that doing so would erase the negative impression being fed the public.
Such publication, he said, will reveal that the money they claim airlines owe have either been taken over by government, the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) or are historic debts owed majorly by airlines that have gone out of business over the years due to the “harsh environment, unfriendly polices and the continued burden of multiple charges or falsified account that can’t stand the test of an external audit or a law court trial.”
He advocated that the agency should engage the services of reputable audit firms such as KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers or Deloitte and Touché, to audit NCAA as an organisation and the N15 billion NCAA claimed that airlines owe.
He reiterated that airlines that currently exist do not owe a fraction of what is being claimed by NCAA if put to test by a world renowned and international audit firm. He said: “Moreover, businesses all over the world, including Nigeria as a country, do owe.
Owing is not unprecedented anywhere in the world. What matters is that whatever is owed is being serviced. Most of the current and active 29 AOC operating airlines are servicing their debts as agreed between themselves and the relevant agencies after the usual reconciliations.”
Consequently, he said, AON “encourage NCAA to take advantage of this offer and open its books for this audit to take place so the general public, which we believe have been misinformed, will get the true picture of the real situation.
The exaggeration by NCAA is tarnishing the good image of the airlines and, as such, AON is unhappy with this unfortunate, damaging and misleading pronouncement by NCAA.”
Both NCAA and the carriers are embroiled in controversy over failure of the latter to remit five per cent ticket sales charge they collected on behalf of the agency but failed to remit as deemed by law.
Piqued by what it termed as deliberate plans for the carriers to withhold the funds meant for the agency, NCAA, penultimate week, published names of 13 airlines with cumulative debt profile of N13.7 billion to it.
Meggison stated that NCAA needs to clear the issue of accurate debts before the introduction of automation, alleging that history has shown that this kind of shady scheme was attempted in the past between an aviation agency and a third party collection firm called Maevis Ltd that resulted in the disappearance of N25 billion remittance and unresolved case in the law court.
He noted that the Presidency had to wade into the matter and handed over the case to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The AON chair explained that the operators were not asking for the cancelation or suspension of the five per cent of the passengers’ ticket fee, but asking for the suspension of the automation till.
He said: “We have clarity of the cloudiness on what the five per cent should be applied to.” He asked NCAA to come clear and also inform the public that existing airlines are currently paying the five per cent TSC and not dodging or seeking ways to avoid paying as wrongly speculated by certain uninformed individuals and hired public organisations.