Friday 21 September 2012


 Shamsudeen Jamil.

No need to mince or colour words, no need to engage in some grandstanding, furthermore no need to play the blame game on the Aviation Ministry, its agencies, officials or the Minister.  This simple truth is that Arik Air is in debt. It is like an aeroplane manoeuvring its streamlined wings through the turbulence of the bad weather of debt.  The following are some of those it is owing AP - N769M, MRS N527M, Total N98M, SO - N66M, FAAN - N7bn & $36K, NCAA N3bn & $218K, NAMA - N914M & $2.5M, Nahcol -N285M, Sahcol -N251M. A sum total of this break down brings it to about 17 Billion Naira. The management of Arik can decide to embark on the entire media blitz it wants, however its nautical miles won’t go far, if as a successful going concern in the Aviation industry it doesn’t pay up or service its debts. Arik Air is not the only culprits there are those business concerns racking up debts in the industry this ventures cannot continue bringing down the government to its knees anymore. They have to pay up. They have to pay the government that is the global best practice. However in Nigeria we have taken things for granted for several years either through circumventing the process or through the emotional and patriotic blackmail of saying that we need to grow local business. The argument is that it is imperative that even local business conform to the global best practices. It was not surprising therefore that, hundreds of Arik Air passengers were on Thursday September 20th 2012 stranded at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) when unions in the industry grounded the airline’s operations from Lagos. The unions under the aegis of the Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association (ATSSSAN) and the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) said the debt Arik Air owes the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority and Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria were the reason the siege at the airport. However a cursory look at this matter shows that automation is the answer to the attitude and proclivity of not paying for service. One cannot but link the success in the telecom sector to the pay as you go scheme, because from the experience of the none payment of bills in the days on Nitel. A much more practical example though is the ASYCUDA project that has automated the clearance and payment of duties by the Nigerian Customs; this scheme has not only ensured that, what is owed the government is promptly paid for before it is cleared out of the purview of the Customs. But it has largely reduced the large scale perpetuated in the past. It is this innovation that stakeholders with ulterior motives are fighting against. It is in this light, that very discerning minds should see this recent onslaught of calumny against the Minister of Aviation Stella Oduah. The plan of the Ministry is to automate the payment and collection of ticket sales charge TSC, Cargo Service Charge CSC and other sundry charges due to by international practices. Ironically same members of the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria ATSSSAN who have decided to act against Arik Air have also not hidden their indignation to the proposed automation of revenue collection in various agencies in Nigeria’s aviation industry. They claim that the funds are meant to be collected by them in trust. But we all know that this mutual trust has been overtly abused over time. Arik Air should do what other corporate entities do in other climes by paying the government and other business interests what the owe; it is the only sensible thing to do at this time, it should stop chasing shadows and live up to its core duties as a corporate citizen in the aviation sector. No sensible investor will want to invest in a venture sinking in the deep sea of liabilities no matter how viable. Arik Air should face its fight as it wades through its turbulence of debts…


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