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Operators Claim Charges Are Illegal

Nigerian domestic airline operators threaten strike over navigation charge

Moses Sawacha, eTN  Apr 01, 2010

Domestic airline operators in Nigeria have threatened to go on strike if the target="_blank">Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) go ahead and force them to pay terminal navigational charges, which they described as illegal and capable of sending them out of business.

The airlines’ operators reaction stem from an earlier circular by NAMA, informing the domestic airline operators, that due to accumulated debt from the charge, the agency would, by April 9, begin to deal with the local carriers on a cash-and-carry basis.

In the circular, NAMA states that all domestic airlines must obtain a payment for clearance from the commercial department of the agency at any airport of departure before operation.

But airline operators at a press briefing at the Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos said the issue of domestic navigational charge has been taken to court since 2005, so any attempt for NAMA to raise the matter now is prejudicial.

According to Mr. Tukur, it is embarrassing to the airlines for NAMA to parade the airlines as debtors and force them to pay fictitious amounts. This, he said, has painted the airline in a bad light.

The Airline Operators Association of Nigeria (AON) went on further to say it was wrong for the agency to resort to using the system to deny airlines flight clearance based on the navigation charge the agency has no power to introduce.

The airline operators sent a letter on May 29, 2010 to the managing director, NAMA, Mr, Ibrahin Auyo; the director general, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Mr. Harold Demuren; and permanent secretary, Ministry of Aviation, the spokesman for the airline operators, Alhaji Idris Kuta; and it said, "If for any reason NAMA ground[s] any airline, we shall all down tools."

In response to the airline operator’s threat, the general manager, Public Affairs, NAMA, Mr. Supo Atobatele, said the threat by the airlines cannot hold water as the agency stands by its circular."

According to him, the airlines are in business and NAMA, which is a self-sustaining agency, is out to render services that are meant to be paid for.

He said the airline operators are owing NAMA close to US$14 million, and this is affecting the agency’s operations. According to him, the agency spends millions of dollars to calibrate their equipment and that the Act of Parliament establishing NAMA empowers it to charge for any services it renders.

Mr. Atobatele further said they called the airline operators to a roundtable meeting, but they have refused to come and are now resorting to blackmailing of the agency. Those of them that fly to the west coast and other countries - don’t they pay, he asked.

Terminal Navigational Charges are payments for clearance for take offs and landings imposed by Nigerian Airspace Management Authority (NAMA) on airline operators in the country.

Nigerian domestic airline operators threaten strike over navigation charge
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