…No earthquake at Lagos airport
By Louis Ibah
The crisis over the recently introduced automation policy for the collection of the five per cent Ticket Sales Charge (TSC) paid by airlines to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) worsened over the weekend as the senior staff union in the industry alleged a high level of fraud by airline operators in the remittances of the TSC.
President of the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Mr. Ahmadu Illitrus, who stated this while addressing journalists also accused domestic airline owners of conspiring to scuttle the financial autonomy enjoyed by the NCAA in recent years by not being faithful in remitting the statutory TSC to the regulatory agency.
“What we have witnessed over the years is that the domestic airlines collect the 5 per cent TSC from passengers and refuse to remit to NCAA, or they remit only a negligible percentage of the money and illegally utilize the larger non-remitted percentage, thereby creating a huge deficit of non-remitted portion of the money which now forms what is termed debt,” said Illitrus.
“If we may ask, in what way has the regime of the 5 per cent TSC affected the operation or survival of Nigerian indigenous airlines which actually collect the charge from passengers and pocket it? Today the domestic airlines have illegally converted over N16 billion from the 5 per cent TSC,”Illitrus added.
Last week, the NCAA said local airlines owed it about N15billion but the NCAA said their financial independence or autonomy was only made possible by foreign airlines that have remained faithful in their TSC payments.
Illitrus condemned calls by local airline owners for the cancellation of the 5 per cent TSC on the basis that it was outdated with the explaination that the idea of the TSC was muted and enforced by the International Civil Aviation Organisaiton (ICAO) which felt that the best way to guarantee air safety for all was for the Civil Aviation Authorities (CAAs) of all countries to enjoy a form autonomy devoid of government financial subvention.
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika today explained that the vibrations experienced at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) was not in any way a structural issue at the foremost airport but as a result of the unlatched doors where the coolers which have just been put into use are housed.
Minister who flew in from Abuja over allegations that there were massive vibrations that has affected the structural integrity of the airport, described the rumours as erroneous and misleading explaining that the doors were not well-latched and the vibrations happening were directly under the office Royal Air Maroc and that led to the wrong assumption that something was wrong.
The minister further disclosed that the engineering department was working on the chillers too stating,” We are working on those chillers and in no distant time the airport will be quite chilled and comfortable for our passengers.”
On the issue of the power outage that was reported, Sirika said there was power outage but there were redundancies that are dedicated to certain critical areas of the airport.
The union leader therefore, posited “Financial autonomy is a key requirement for autonomy of the CAA. It has been established that political interference in the operation of a CAA is most visible in jurisdictions where the CAAs depends on subventions from the government. On the other hand, the CAAs have feared better where they are financially independent”.
“Since commencement of operations in 2000, the NCAA has invested huge resources in the development of enabling legal and regulatory framework to ensure safe, secure and economically sound civil aviation sector in Nigeria. It therefore, attributes demise of airlines in the country to poor capitalisation, lack of good corporate governance, absence of local maintenance/ repair facilities, and absence of infrastructures to enable 24 hour flight operations into some aerodromes amongst others”, he added.