FG suspends third airline as aviation crisis persists

The Federal Government has suspended Azman Air, two months after grounding Aero Contractors and Dana Air, reflecting the crisis in the aviation sector.

The Director General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, Captain Musa Nuhu,  confirmed on Thursday that the agency was withholding the Air Transport License of Azman Air till it provided the required documentation for its operational licenses’ renewal and sign a Memorandum of Understanding on how it would remit its legacy debt accrued from the collection of Passenger Service Charge.

According to Nuhu, Azman Air must sign the MOU to negotiate its debt remittance, which was part of the N42bn and $7.8m debts in PSC, and also provide Tax Clearance as one of the documentation for its ATL.

Sources claimed that Azman Air owes up to N1.2bn in debt accruing from collection of Passenger Service Charge.

Nuhu said as soon as the airline complied, it would get its approvals as these were part of the renewal processes to ensure the regulator did not go under.

He said,” This is not a charge and this is not their money. They are monies collected in trust for us from passengers and they squandered it. We are not asking them for an interest rate, no penalties, we just want our funds remitted. We asked them to sit and negotiate as they collected on our behalf and refused to remit.

“I cannot keep explaining to the Minister, to the Accountant General, to the Presidency why we cannot remit money meant for them to them. We have been forced to carry out this action.

“We know that if we tell them to give us all these monies at the same time, it is very difficult and not possible, so we have put in place a tripartite agreement; the NCAA, airlines and the airlines’ banks.

“So, once those funds go to the bank, the five per cent TSA/CSC is automatically deducted and goes into the NCAA bank and NCAA will share it with the other sister agencies on a pre-determined ratio as entrenched in the 2006 Civil Aviation Act.

“For the legacy debts, what we have done is to enter an MoU with all the operators. We know they can’t pay all at a time, but they have to pay us a reasonable amount of money on a monthly basis at least.”

However, the chairman, Azman Air, Abdulmunaf Sarina, said that the airline’s AOC wasn’t withdrawn but that its license expired.

In a short message to journalists, Sarina said, “Our licence expired, but we are going to renew it today.”

In a short message to The PUNCH on enquiry about the possibility of Azman Air’s ability to renew its license today, the NCAA’s acting General Manager, Public Relations Department, said, “It’s not possible, it has phases it must go through.”

The PUNCH in the early hours of Thursday reported that Azman Air asked its members of staff not to show up for work based on  operational reasons.

According to information gathered the airline had already told its workforce not to report for duties on Thursday as it was suspending operations  “due to operational reasons.”

According to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t in a position to speak on the matter, the NCAA suspended Azman’s operation for failing to meet the requirements for AOC renewal.

Reacting to this new development, aviation expert and the head research & corporate travel at Zenith Travel & Consul, Olumide Ohunayo, stated that Azman Air’s suspension would have adverse effect on the industry as that would make a total of three airlines not in operation. He stated that as a result of this, fares would most likely increase, especially on routes frequented by Azman.

He said, “Azman has joined the list of airlines that have stopped operations. We are losing capacity on a daily basis and I think that the northern route will be mostly affected by the stoppage of operations by Azman. That was their strongest route. They’ve been connecting the northern states to Abuja and those states will feel the effect.

“You cannot keep three aircrafts from flying and then we’re losing capacity daily.

“Apart from fares jumping up, staff would be asked to go home or may not be paid. Service providers in some of the airports that Azman frequents are now not going to make money because Azman is not coming. Down the line, you’d see that there’ll be losses for everybody.”

Industry expert, Wole Shadare, said, “Perhaps, the airline is no longer interested in business anymore.  An airline begins the process of renewal before your AOC expires. I’m sure the airline is aware and may not have made preparations to renew its license. Maybe the carrier is just fed up with the whole business and may have thrown in the towel clandestinely. Maybe, maybe not. Who knows?”

Article first published on the Punch Website

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