Why Airlines Owe NCAA N15 Billion

Nairametrics| The Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals, an NGO, has called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over the N15 billion ticket and cargo charges airlines owe the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). The NCAA is the federal government parastatal in charge of managing airports in the country.

The purported N15 billion is a large sum of money which can go a long way in rehabilitating Nigeria’s airports. The poor state of the airports leaves a negative impression on the minds of foreign investors coming into the country for the first time. That contributes to Nigeria’s poor rating on the Ease of Doing Business ranking.

Calling for the arrest of airline operators is a bit extreme. Most of the operators are barely surviving. Airlines in the country are overtaxed and have to deal with several issues ranging from difficulties in accessing foreign exchange, the poor state of Nigerian airports and a downturn in the economy, which have all contributed in reducing the number of people who travel by air. It is important to note here that taxes and other charges constitute over 50% of the cost of an airline ticket.

Involving the EFCC will lead to litigation, which takes time, while the debt will remain unpaid as long as the court proceedings persist. Further, litigation could make the airlines hostile towards the NCAA. Airlines most likely have utilised a large part of the loans. A pragmatic solution to recovering the funds is for the NCAA to extend the deadline for airline operators to automate their ticketing systems. Thereafter, harsh penalties can be applied for non payment.

The NCAA on its part should be more transparent in its use of the funds. Their income and expenditure statement should be published yearly for accountability, therefore, making airlines more likely to comply. Pending when the major terminals in the country are concessioned, government must urgently rehabilitate them. The simple installation of instruments to aid night time landing will increase the volume of flights at most of the airports. That, in effect, would increase revenue for the government and airlines as well.

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