June 21, 2009

NAHCo, SAHCOL to ground airlines over N1bn debt

By Kenneth Ehigiator
International and domestic flight operations in the country may be grounded, as the two aviation ground handlers have vowed to withdraw their services over the N1 billion debt owed them.

Spokesman of Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc (NAHCo), Mr. Demola Akinbola, who dropped hint of service withdrawal, weekend, also waved off competition from Singapore-based Swissport Aviation Handling Company into the nation’s aviation industry.

According to him, the debt owed NAHCo and its counterpart -the Skypower Aviation Handling Company Limited (SAHCOL) will run the companies out of business unless the huge debt was paid without delay.

“SAHCOL and NAHCo are owed about a billion naira by airlines. For us to handle Lagos-London flight of B777, for instance, it is not up to N400,000. How much is the cost of a business class ticket?”

“All airlines owe us, local and international, but those who owe more are the local operators and we are out a way by which we can recover this money.

The airlines are collecting money upfront from passengers, they should also pay us upfront.

“It is going to be impossible for anybody to owe us because if you owe SAHCOL, NAHCo will not provide ground handling services for you,” Akinbola said.

Akinbola, who noted that domestic airlines were more disposed to owing both companies, wondered why local airlines would refuse to pay just between N30,000 and N35,000 for handling each of their flights.

On the coming of Swissport into the country, Akinbola said neither NAHCo nor SAHCOL was scared of the development, stressing that all both companies needed was a level playing field to be provided by government.

He said NAHCo particularly was favourably disposed to the competition Swissport would offer, especially if it would lead to improvement in airport infrastructure.

He said:  “We have been reading a lot about them and our position has always been that we are here. Competition is good and a lot of people have been saying that Swissport is coming into the industry to takeover the ground handling business, but the question I want us to ask is why did the company leave Singapore?

“The ground handling companies in Singapore formed a very strong alliance and they frustrated them out. Again, we should look at the indigenisation of our business, NAHCo and SAHCOL  are owed by Nigeria.  So, there is nothing wrong in allowing a foreign company to come, but the government must provide a level playing ground for everybody.

“When Swissport comes, all of the things that we have been asking for a very long time, we hope it is not then they will start providing them?  We have been asking for improved infrastructures at the airports and equipment that will enhance service delivery. What I am saying is that the government should give everybody equal opportunities.”