Hadi Sirika
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Airlines’ N37bn debt overhang: We will go after them to collect the money – Aviation Minister

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The Federal Government said on Thursday that airlines flying the country’s airspace are owing a humongous N37 billion and threatened to go after them to recover the money.  

The money is owed to agencies including the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), and Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika disclosed this on Thursday while featuring at the weekly State House briefing organized by the Presidential Media Team at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

He said:“So this brings us to the question on the money owed the parastatals. It is about N37 billion that they are owing especially, Arik, the culprit. I know they are owing us about N13 or N14 billion.

“If you are owing government, you are owing FAAN, the Bi-Courtney is owing about N14 billion as at the last count. It has not paid a single dime since the time he started to run the terminal building. And we have not ceased giving him, electricity, water, fire cover and so on and so forth. He has not paid a dime for 13 years.

“And if we go to shut his doors, media, of course, and Nigerian people will say we are killing businesses but he is killing our services too.

“We have to have that money to provide for that toilet that you are looking in at Lagos airport. Most of these are living by their IGRs and so, we need the money but we will go after the money.”

On the N5 billion COVID-19 palliative to aviation stakeholders, Sirika said a case was made against debtor-airlines to be excluded from the intervention.

“The service providers in our system (FAAN, NAMA) said oh these guys (the airlines) are owing us and we should take the money from the money being given to them as palliatives. We said No, but the intent of President Buhari is to ensure that he cushions the effect on businesses. 

“Let us find a way of surviving and let them take the money. So we would have taken the money and left them with nothing and we stay with nothing.

On delayed flights or cancelation by airlines, the minister said henceforth airline operators should refund the full cost of travel tickets to passengers after a two-hour delay.

Sirika asked air passengers to demand their rights whenever they are trampled upon by airlines, reeling out rights of aviation passengers.

“Delay beyond one hour, carrier should provide refreshment, and one telephone call, or one SMS, or one e-mail. They should send you an SMS or email or call you to say, ‘I am sorry, I am delaying for one hour’.

“Delay for two hours and beyond, the carrier shall reimburse passengers the full volume of their tickets.

“Delay between 10pm and 4am, carrier shall provide hotel accommodation, refreshment, meal, two free calls, SMS, email and transport to-and-fro airport,” the minister said.

While urging passengers not to take laws into their hands and become unruly, Sirika disclosed that some airlines who infringed  on consumer rights are being sanctioned.

Persecondnews recalls that commercial airlines operating in the country had blamed domestic flight cancellations and delays on non-availability and rising cost of aviation fuel (Je tA1) and the vagaries of weather.

Others, according to airline operators, are delay occasioned by VIP movement at airports, inefficient passenger access and facilitation, and inadequate screening and exit points at departure. 

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