Posted by News Express | 26 November 2013 | 3,821 times
The immortal words of the legendary musical group ABBA that “it’s a rich man’s world” were once more proved true yesterday as the Senate Committee on Aviation ordered the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) to suspend the recent charges it imposed on local and foreign registered private airline operators, on non-scheduled flights in Nigeria.
The Committee in a tripartite meeting with NAMA management and private aircraft operators on non-scheduled flights said what was required at the moment was consultations and advocated for a stakeholders’ retreat immediately to iron out the cause of the current dispute between the operators and regulatory agencies in the aviation industry.
Chairman of Senate Committee on Aviation, Hope Uzodinma advised private airline operators and NAMA to choose a date for the meeting to take a position on the matter but asked that the new charges be suspended until after proper consultations.
Uzodinma also asked NAMA to immediately convey a stakeholders meeting in collaboration with the Ministry of Aviation for the purpose of consulting with the operators and adopt a levy that would be mutually acceptable to all parties.
NAMA had recently introduced a new pay-as-you-go charge regime whereby foreign registered airline operators were expected to pay a flat levy of $3,000, while their indigenous counterparts were levied $2,500 on each flight embarked upon by their aircraft.
It was gathered that before the new levy, the operators were charged based on their routes, navigational terminal and weight of their aircraft and the various amounts were paid to different aviation agencies operating at the nation’s airports.
Spokesperson of the private airlines operators on non-schedule flights in Nigeria, Alhaji Bala Ibn Na’allah, had described the new levies introduced by NAMA as discriminatory because the arrangement was not applicable to airline operators on scheduled flights.
Ibn Na’allah agreed that the Civil Aviation Act 2006 section 30 (2) gives power to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to charge levies but argued that such should not be imposed without adequate consultations with relevant stakeholders.
He said: “We want to be led by the rule of law. NCAA did not consult us before imposing levies on us. We are urging the senators to impress upon the NCAA to always carry us along through consultations because section 70 (1) C of the act did not allow them to do whatever will be detrimental to the nation.
“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 and NAMA did not see anything bad in implementing such discriminatory policy?
“It is discriminatory for NCAA to charge different levies for scheduled and non-scheduled flights. The law recommends payments either in local or hard currency but NAMA does not collect naira.”
But Director General of NAMA, Mazi Nnamdi Udoh, noted that airlines operators were very crucial to the nation even as he corrected the assumption that his agency forced the operators to pay in dollars.
Udoh said: “They are also at liberty to pay in naira. Payment in dollars is at their liberty. The provisions of section 30 were being used in the past to collect levies. 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.”
Udoh commended the senate committee for its timely intervention and pledged to revert to the status quo ante.
•Story largely based on a Vanguard report. Photo shows Chairman of Senate Committee on Aviation, Hope Uzodinma.
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