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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Lawmakers reject Aero as national carrier

 by Turaki A. Hassan & Musa Abdullahi Krishi

Nigeariann Senate
.Senate orders freeze of new aviation levies
The reported moves by the Federal Government to designate Aero Contractors airline as the national flag carrier has run into turbulence as some federal lawmakers yesterday rejected the idea.
Aero is at present run by the government, having being taken over by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) because of bad debts.
The Aviation Ministry, which had since announced plans to operate a national airline, appears to be preparing Aero for this. An Aero aircraft that went abroad for routine maintenance flew back in new national colours last week, and is now at the airport in Lagos.
Reports, which ministry officials denied, said the plane would be unveiled this week as part of the new airline.
But members of the Senate and House of Representatives committees on aviation spoke to Daily Trust yesterday, saying they would not support the government’s move.
Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, who is on the Senate Committee on Aviation, said Aero was already a dying company that did not deserve to fly the national colours.
“I am in support of designating any performing airline as our national carrier. I don’t know why they are hesitating in designating Arik as a national carrier which is doing wel,” said Ndume, who is also chairman of the Senate Committee on MDGs.
“How can they bring a dying company to be our national carrier just to cover up for some of their lapses? They want to use our national resources to cover up the inefficiency of some people who ruined their company and were bailed out with tax payer’s money.”
He added that the Aero idea “is already dead on arrival because the company was almost dead; just because they painted one aircraft in Nigerian colours does not make it our national carrier because it takes more than that.”
Also speaking to Daily Trust, a member of the House Aviation Committee, Rep Idris Garba Abdullahi (APC, Niger), said it appears the Federal Government was not serious about developing the aviation sector.
“If we’re serious, we can’t have Aero Contractors as a national carrier. This is an airline that cannot service Abuja, Lagos and the rest, yet they’re talking of having it as a national carrier? What will Aero do internationally when it can’t serve us domestically? I think the Federal Government has to be serious for once,” he said.
Idris said if well harnessed, the aviation sector could boost Nigeria’s economy. “If the Federal Government wants to do this thing well, they can go into a lease agreement with some money and pick the routes that we’re already relating with.”
He added: “They cannot start with Aero Contractors. We need a bigger airline to ply those routes. This is something that can sustain our economy, but we don’t want to be serious. Look at Ethiopia for example; they’re doing well in that regard.”
When our reporter contacted House Aviation Committee chairperson Rep Nkiruka Onjejeocha (PDP, Abia) for comments, she simply replied via text to say: “I am not in Nigeria. I will grant you interview when I come back.”
New aviation levies suspended
Earlier yesterday, the Senate Committee on Aviation asked the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) to suspend the recent charges imposed on local and foreign registered private airline operators on non-scheduled flights in Nigeria.
Committee chairman, Senator Hope Uzodinma (PDP, Imo), gave the directives during a meeting with NAMA management and private aircraft operators in Abuja yesterday.
He asked the agency to make wide consultations with the private jet operators towards adopting an acceptable levy regime.
NAMA recently introduced a new a pay-as-you-go charge regime whereby foreign registered airline operators are expected to pay a flat levy of $3,000 while their indigenous counterparts are to be levied $2,500 on each flight.
Spokesperson of the private airlines operators on non-scheduled flights in Nigeria, Alhaji Bala Ibn Na’allah, described the new levies as discriminatory because the arrangement was not applicable to airline operators on scheduled flights.
“We want to be led by the rule of law,” he said. “NCAA did not consult us before imposing levies on us…. For every take off, we are paying $2,500. Why are we paying in dollars when it is not our local currency in the country?”
For his part, NAMA Director General, Mazi Nnamdi Udoh, told the lawmakers that the jet operators “are also at liberty to pay in naira. Payment in dollars is at their liberty…. The charges would make them to ensure sanity.
“Before the new one-stop-shop payment, we were charging navigation, landing, parking and terminal navigation levies but services being offered in Nigeria must also conform to international best practices.
“They don’t pay five percent charges out of the revenues they make. Safety is not cheap, the new levies are desirable because we have to maintain standards at all times.”
But Udoh agreed to suspend the new levies until further consultations were made.

DailyTrust

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