By Musa Baba Adamu
The Senate Monday rejected the N5billion bailout been planned as bailout for Airliners in Nigeria and other key players in the Aviation Industry.
This as the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika disclosed that the Airliners are owing the Federal Government N19billion and $6million as none remittance of service charge expected from tickets they issue to Air Travellers.
The disagreement between the Senate Committee on Aviation and the Minister on required quantum of bailouts to be given to Airliners came up during public hearing the committee held on six bills aimed at repositioning the Aviation sector attended by the Minister and heads of various parastatals in the Sector.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Aviation, Senator Smart Adeyemi (APC Kogi West), had in his welcome speech solicited for bailouts for Airline operators in the country to avoid cutting of corners by them.
Responding to the request in his own speech , the Aviation Minister said already due to adverse effects of COVID – 19 pandemic on the Aviation sector, N4billion bailout is being worked out for Airliners while N11billion is also being planned as bailout for other key players in the sector.
“The sector affected most by COVID – 19 pandemic is the Aviation sector just as it was with the 9/11 terrorists attacks in America and all other global pandemic that had happened in the past.
“The sector being the fastest growing sector in Nigeria economy actually needs to be supported, the very reason, the Federal Government is planning a total of N5billion bailouts for the sector”, he said.
But in swift reaction, Senator Adeyemi said the N5billion bailout was too meagre for operators in the sector who had suffered heavy losses during closed down of the sector caused by the COVID – 19 pandemic.
“The N5billion bailout is just too much an intervention to be made by government in repositioning the sector for quality service delivery anchored on safety of Air Travellers and operators.
“This meagre intervention or bailout, may make the Airliners to start cutting corners, which will be disastrous.
“Federal government must surely have a rethink on what to give them which must be substantial enough for the required stabilisation of the sector”, he said.
However the Minister in his further explanation, said the N5billion is what the FG can afford now and that the National Assembly should also help by way of Appropriation to that effect.
He added that the Airliners are owing the Federal Government the sum of N19billion in local currency denomination and $6m dollars in international currency denomination, all as a result of none remittance of service charge to the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), on air tickets issued to travellers.
“Despite this huge debt being owed the Federal government by the Airliners, government is still considering N5billion bailout for them which is not a bad idea” , he stressed.
He also defended the planned concession of some Federal Airports in the country for proper maintenance and upgrading.
According to him, there is no other alternative for government to put the Airports in proper shapes like others in the world outside the concession plan, since Government does not want to privatize them fully or sell them.