The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has cautioned service providers, especially the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), to tread cautiously in recovery of ‘huge debts’ from domestic airlines.
This is contained in a statement by the association’s Chairman, Capt. Nogie Meggison in Lagos on Friday.
Meggison noted that the current economic downturn being experienced in the country would cripple any airline that was expected to pay the already cancelled debts.
According to him, the few surviving AON members are ready to pay their currently existing bills.
He said the association was appalled by the move of the government agencies, and appealed to them not to run airlines out of business.
“We strongly decry the ongoing action by the various government agencies, whereby they threaten to deny airlines services for their operations or completely ground them as this is likely to force airlines out of business.
“Due to the economic hard times of today, airlines have become a soft target and are seen as a cash cow for everyone else to prey on easily.
“However, the agencies need to realise that air transport is the engine of the economy.
Hence, if they disturb Nigerian airlines then they will damage the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari to restore the economy,” he said.
Without the airlines, he said, there would be no aviation in the first place.
He said that it was because of the airlines that airports were built and managed by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria.
“It is because of the airlines that an agency like NAMA exists to provide navigational services.
“The airlines also are the reason why we have catering companies, ground services providers, fuel marketers and other ancillary service providers in and around the airport.
“This kind of cruel hostility has stifled airlines in the past and is one of the issue responsible for many Nigerian airlines going out of business in the past twenty years.”
He said the airlines that have gone under were; Triax, Sosoliso, Air Nigeria,
Premium Air Shuttle, Gas, Okada, Sahara, Oriental, Chanchangi and Savanah.
The others were; Harco, Harka, Holtrade, Intercontinental, Skyline, Easylink, Chrome Air, Fresh Air, ADC, EAS, Virgin Nigeria, among others.
Meggison said majority of these phantom debts were owed by airlines that are dead, adding that only airlines that were in operations could pay debts.
He said how do they expect the airlines to operate and make their money to pay up the debts if services were not render to the airlines.
“There are better ways of doing things. Instead of forcing the airlines out of business by denying them access to fly or employing crude arm-twisting tactics.
“The agencies should be working closely with the airlines to reduce costs and make their operations more efficient,” he said.