By Wisdom Deji-Folutile
Hadi Sirika, the Minister of Aviation, has said that Nigerian airlines are owing various federal agencies about N37 billion.
The minister said this at a weekly ministerial press briefing organised by the Presidential Communication Team at Aso Rock.
According to him, the multi-billion naira debt is owed to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), among others.
Sirika also mentioned some of the indebted companies. According to him, Arik owes about N13 or N14 billion, Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited owes the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) about N14 billion.
The minister mentioned that Bi-Courtney, the operators of Dana Air, had failed to remit any payments since 2008.
He said airlines owing aviation parastatals did not benefit from the N5 billion COVID-19 palliative disbursed to aviation stakeholders.
“In fact, the service providers in our system, FAAN, NAMA, said, ‘oh these guys are owing us, we should take the money from the money being given as palliatives’. We said no, but the intent of President Buhari is to ensure that he cushion 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,” he said.
“So, this brings 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’re owing us about N13, N14 billion.
“If you’re 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 hasn’t paid a dime for 13 years.
“And if we go to shut his doors, media, of course, and Nigerian people will say we’re killing businesses, but he is killing our services too because we have to have that money to provide for that toilet that you’re looking in Lagos airport. Most of these are living by their IGRs, and so, we need the money but we will go after the money.”
Concerning the national carrier, Sirika restated that Nigeria will begin the operation of a new national air carrier in the first quarter of 2022.
“I’m happy to say, we discussed with the high and mighty. We discussed with Boeing, with Airbus, we have reached some agreements. We discussed with airlines like Qatar and many other airlines. We will have this timeline in 2022 by the grace of God. And we’ll start with the domestic, you know, escalating into international. And we are partnering with many in the airline industry focused either weight capacity and high capacity to be produced by either Boeing or Airbus,” he said.