Journalism of Courage

Selling tickets to Nigerians in dollars: FG to clampdown on foreign airlines, says it violates extant laws

An imminent clampdown on foreign airlines selling tickets to Nigerian in dollars is in the offing, an indication to this effect was given on Wednesday by the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika.

To this end, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has been instructed to swing into action immediately.

Sirika told State House correspondents after the week’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja that such practice is a violation of the Nigerian laws.

He said the interest of Nigerians must be protected against the airlines’ operations sharp practices.

“No violator, no matter how highly placed, would be spared if caught in violation.

“Findings at government’s disposal, revealed that some of the airlines are refusing the Naira and charging their ticket fares in dollars in violation of the country’s laws, while some others have blocked local travel agencies from accessing their websites for transactions, choosing to release expensive tickets.

“That is a violation of our laws; they will not be allowed. The high and the mighty amongst them will be sanctioned, if they’re caught doing that.

“NCAA had been directed to swing into action and once we find any airline violating this, we will definitely deal with them. Also, they blocked the travel agents from access. They also made only the expensive tickets available and so on so forth.

“Our regulators are not sleeping; we have a very vibrant Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority. Once they found any airline guilty, that airline will be dealt with because we need to protect our people.

“It is according to our agreements, to what we have signed and this is according to international convention,’’ the aviation minister said.

“So going forward, they should desist from doing things that are outside of the law. They should also desist from writing us and putting things in social media. They should go through diplomatic channels if they want response from federal government.’’

According to Sirika, foreign airlines operating in the country made over $1.1 billion from Nigeria in 2016 as the Muhammadu Buhari administration cleared the $600 million it inherited from previous government.

“If it was retained in the country through Nigerian official airline, it would have created jobs.

“The airlines remitted over $600 million to their home countries in 2016 while over $265 million has also been released this year out of about $484 million due to them,’’ he recalled.

He said necessary arrangement was on to ensure that the monies of the foreign airlines does not pile up any more to keep them in business in the country.

Reacting to the channel of grievances of the foreign airlines, Sirika urged them not to use the social media in future to express their grievances but to explore diplomatic channels.

On the floating of a national carrier and the amount spent so far on the project, the minister denied that the “Nigeria Air’’ had already gulped over N14.6 billion with just only five per stake by Nigeria in the airline.

Describing as irresponsible, embarrassing and tissues of lies a report carried by a national daily on the huge figures, Sirika disclosed that the federal government had spent only N651million (N352 million and N299 million) for what he called transactional advisory services as approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

“The money is yet to be disbursed as the consultants are yet to finish their work.’’




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