I’ll recover every kobo, Aviation Minister vows as airlines' debts to FG hit N37bn

…Says debts owed aviation agencies hit N37bn

…Vows to recover every kobo

…Blasts Arik, Bi-Courtney over contract implementation

…Notes Aviation Ministry has released 67 air accident reports

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

The Federal Government said yesterday that airline operators in the country must refund the full cost of travel tickets to passengers after a two-hour delay.

It also noted debts owed by airlines in the country to federal agencies had risen to about N37 billion, vowing to recover every kobo of it.

The government equally flayed Arik Air and Bi-Courtney Aviation, owners of MMA2, over contract implementation, even as it said the aviation ministry had released 67 air accident reports thus far.

Government’s position on flight delays and cancellations came against the backdrop of public outcry over the phenomenon, especially by air travellers.

Vanguard had reported exckusively yesterday that the government was coming up with stiffer sanctions against flight delays and cancellations in the country.

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who stated this when he featured at the ministerial press briefing organized by the Presidential Communication Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday, read some of the rights of aviation passengers at the briefing and charged them to demand their rights whenever they were trampled upon by airlines.

He said: “On domestic flights, 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, who noted that the same rules applied for international flights, said his ministry had started sanctioning some airlines who defaulted on consumer rights, but urged passengers not to be unruly at airports.

He said the debts owed by airlines in the country to federal agencies had risen to about N37 billion, alleging that  despite the fact that  Bi-Courtney Limited was owing about N13 billion, it had not remitted a dime to government coffers for 13 years.

Sirika explained that the debts were owed to aviation parastatals, including Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN; Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA; and Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, among others.

He, however, vowed that government would go after the airlines and other aviation stakeholders to make sure that they paid what they owed.

READ ALSO: Plans for Aviation University to halt airlines’ collapse underway, says FG

Speaking on the controversy over the  disbursement of the N5 billion COVID-19 palliative to aviation stakeholders, he said it was agreed that airlines owing aviation parastatals should not benefit from  the palliative.

The minister said:  “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. 

“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.

“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.”

Vanguard News Nigeria

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