WEDNESDAY, 30 JUNE 2010 BY WOLE SHADARE
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) said it is resolute and determined to ensure that airlines, which are indebted to it, pay their debts.However, the Director-General of the authority, Dr. Harold Demuren, disclosed that in a bid to evade reconciliation of their debts totalling N5 billion, some of them issued bounced cheques to the NCAA.
Demuren made the disclosure yesterday while speaking with reporters over allegations that he misappropriated N5 billion recovered from airlines as debts. He praised the Minister of Aviation, Fidelia Njeze, for wading into the crisis that pitted his agency against the airlines over their indebtedness.The minister had in a meeting with the debtor airlines, aviation agencies’ chiefs and Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON) provided a soft landing for the airlines, directing that they should spread the debt payment over a period of six years.
The industry had been embroiled in airline debt controversy with allegation that most of the debtor airlines are unwilling to pay, just as they cited harsh economic reality that has seriously affected their operations.While the operators are said to owe NCAA over N5 billion on un-remitted statutory five per cent from tickets sold, regarded as Ticket Sales Charge (TSC), the same operators owe the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and its concessionaires over N16 billion, and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) over N4 billion on navigational charges.
Just on Monday, the Senate Committee on Aviation headed by Anyim Ude had assured that it would help FAAN to recover N16 billion owed it by various management concessionaires.Demuren however used the occasion to clarify reports in the media (not in The Guardian) that N5 billion was paid into his account by airlines as part of the debts owed.He described the reports as “baseless, wicked and amount to character assassination”, adding that the airlines which are trying to survive could not have paid the NCAA and the NCAA would still be on their trail.
He has however slammed N4 billion libel suits against four media houses, which he claimed maligned his character over “their false reports”.Demuren also re-assured that he was very confident that Nigeria will scale the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety audit which Nigeria is on the last phase, adding that he would not be distracted by negative reports capable of running the industry aground.
He said that the industry cannot afford to go back to the era where aircraft were falling from the sky, leading to the loss of hundreds of lives.His words: “We know where the distractions are coming from and at the appropriate time, the people behind all these will be exposed. We are focused and will not allow anything to derail our quest to pass America’s highest aviation safety standards. Their allegations are unfounded and lack merit.”
A team of American aviation experts is due to arrive Lagos next week for what would be the last phase of Nigeria’s tortuous journey to achieving the highest aviation safety status.The country’s success or otherwise in meeting the requirements would eventually decide its fate on whether, or not, the U.S. would re-certify its aviation sector on safety standards and regulations.