FG vows to go after airlines over N37 billion debts

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, says efforts have been intensified by the ministry to recover to over N37 billion debts owed by airlines in the country.

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika. [Punch]

The minister made this known at the weekly ministerial press briefing organised by the Presidential Communication Team at the presidential villa, Abuja, on Thursday.

Sirika specifically cited Bi-Courtney Limited as chronic debtor, saying the company was owing about N13 billion and had never remitted a dime to government coffers for 13 years.

He explained that the debts were owed to aviation parastatals including Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) among others.

“It is about N37 billion that they are owing, especially, Arik, the culprit. I know they’re owing us about, N14 billion.

“If you are owing government, you are owing FAAN; the Bi-Courtney is owing about N14 billion as at the last count.

“It has not paid a single dime since the time he started to run the terminal building, and we have not ceased giving him electricity, water, fire cover, and so on and so forth.

“He has not paid a dime for 13 years. And if we go to shut his doors, media, of course, and Nigerian people will say we are killing businesses. But he is killing our services too, because we have to have that money to provide for that toilet that you’re looking (for)in Lagos airport."

The minister, however, vowed that the government would go after the airlines and other aviation stakeholders to make sure that they pay what they owe.

“Most of these agencies are living by their Internally Generated Revenues (IGRs) and so we need the money but we will go after the money,’’ he added.

On the disbursed N5 billion COVID-19 palliative to aviation stakeholders, Sirika said that it was agreed that airlines owing aviation parastatals should not benefit from the palliative.

“In fact, the service providers in our system, FAAN, NAMA, said that since these guys are owing us, we should take the money from the money being given as palliatives.

“We said no but the intent of President Buhari is to ensure that he cushions the effect on businesses.

“Let us find a way of surviving, and let them take the money. So, we would have taken the money and left them with nothing but we stayed with nothing,’’ he said.

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