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Foreign Airlines Trapped Funds Rise to $743m, as Aviation Minister Assures IATA of Intervention

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By Aduku Odaudu

Despite government’s past efforts to tackle the issue of blocked funds of foreign airlines, the amount has increased to $743,721,097 from $662m in January 2023, the the International Air Transport Association has reported.

In a letter presented to the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, signed by the Regional Manager West and Central Africa, Dr Samson Fatokun, IATA called on the minister to intervene so the foreign airlines can repatriate their funds.

“For over a year, Nigeria has been the country with the highest amount of airline-blocked funds in the world” the letter indicated.

IATA reckoned that the “trapped funds sends a strong message against FD! The increasing backiog of international airlines blocked funds in Nigeria sends a strong message against foreign direct investment (FD!) in Nigeria. Potential investors are reading from the plight of the airlines that they would not be able to expatriate their funds from Nigeria even al this moment when Nigeria is expecting investments in the concession of some of its prominent airports.”

Dr. Samson Fatokun said that it’s important Nigeria respect contractual obligations Foreign airlines fly into Nigeria within the legal framework of the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) signed between their countries and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The IATA/Foreign Airlines delegation with Senator Hadi Sirika and the Permanent Secretary, Dr Emmanuel Meribole

He noted that it is agreed in those BASAs that Nigeria will facilitate the repatriation of.the funds.

He said this has also led to high-ticket prices to mitigate the increasing backlog of these funds in Nigeria and its impact of their cash flow, some airlines have decided to reduce the number of their frequencies, or the number of seats made available for sale in the Nigerian market.

Commenting, the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika said the “government is concerned especially the ministry of aviation. I am sure you are all aware that this is not a problem that is currently within the leverage of the ministry of aviation if it were to be here it would be resolved today.”

“Unfortunately, it sits somewhere else more with the Central Bank of Nigeria who in turns keeps saying it is between them and the commercial banks” he further explained.

“We will do the very best we can to resolve this matter soon” he promised.

“We will begin from today, we have been doing the best we can because we understand the importance of the services being provided and also the legitimacy of the request because it is something that is backed by the Bilateral and multi-lateral Agreements and something that is the law itself so there is no reason why it should continue to remain” he assured.

Aviation Permanent Secretary, Dr Emmanuel Meribole, Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika and the IATA Regional Manager for West and Central Africa, Dr Samson Fatokun during the visit

He also urged the airlines to bear with certain situations, adding that the way they deal with the matter is not the best way to deal with issues of sovereign and in this case some of the airlines that decide not to come to Nigeria, it is a commercial decision you take which is fine but to do other things to show some resentment to the country is not acceptable.

“Some go to the extent of saying that they are not allowing Nigerians to go or no visa issuance which I think is anniversary and uncalled for; we do know that we need your services but we are very convinced that you need our market more that we need your services. I think Nigeria should be treated with some level of dignity and honour” he quarried.

“From your document here Qatar Airways has $208m blocked, Ethiopian Airline with $117m blocked. These are the major tickets and IATA $216m which is the highest while Emirates is $35m” he said.

“I know certain payments have been made. At some point when we decided to closed down Abuja airport for rehabilitation and to move to Kaduna. All of you foreign airlines refused to go to Kaduna which shows that you are only interested in what you can gain from a country which is the money but you are not willing to give anything.

“Some of you approached me and said you do not have were your crew will stay so you can fly to Kaduna. But we provided hostels that were better equipped than most hotels in town, good catering services, still you refused to identify with us”

He charged them to always adopt the give-and-take attitude in business relationships.

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Private Jets Operating Commercial Services to Lose Licences – NCAA DG

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The Acting Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Chris Najomo has warned that all private jet operators operating commercial charter services risks loosing their licenses.

He gave the warning in Lagos on Friday during the media unveiling of his vision board for year 2024 tagged NCAA Project 2024.

The Ag.DG, who expressed concern over the illicit activities of illegal private jet operators in the country, said if private jets wants to operate as commercial or charter operators, they should apply for the commercial licences.

Highlighting the regulatory provisions, Najomo noted that only holders of Air Transport Licence (ATL) and Airline Operating Permit (AOP) with a valid Air Operator Certificate (AOC) are authorized to conduct charter operations.

He also stated that NCAA will cease offering services to all debtors, who have refused to payment the NCAA and federal government monies owed them, noting that almost all airlines are guilty of this.
Nigerian airlines are currently indeed to NCAA in billions of naira.

He also said the NCAA is committed towards simplified certification and licensing processes as this will ensure ease of doing business.

Najomo further stated that one of his 2024 projects is to Ensure improved staff welfare, training, retraining and reorientation of staff.

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NDLEA Arraigns SAHCO Manager, 7 Staff For Aiding Drug Trafficking

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An Assistant General Manager of Skyway Handling Company (SAHCO), Olajide Ahmed Kafidipe, and seven other staff of the company, were today, arraigned before a Lagos Federal High Court, on charges bordering of conspiracy, unlawful importation and possession of 1, 440.90 kilograms of Tramadol.

Olajide and others were arraigned before the court presided over by Justice Deinde Isaac Dipeolu, by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).

The seven staff of the company arraigned alongside Olajide were; Sanyaolu Rasheed Oladele; Musa Mutalib Opeyemi; Sanamo Alla Daniel; Anuge Evans Isibor; Mahmud Agboola Musa; Udeh Felix and Obinna Henry.

The prosecutor, Mr. Abu Ibrahim, while arraigning the SAHCO staff, told the court that all the defendants conspired with the trio of Mubarak Sarki Salami, Abdullahi Aliyu a.k.a Aboki and Anwal Monday, who also staff of the company but now at large, to commit the offences on or about October 25, 2023.

The prosecutor, Mr. Ibrahim further told the court that the Assistant General Manager of SAHCO, Olajide and other staff of the company, conspired amongst yourself to transport 1, 440.90 kilograms of Tramadol 225mg, a Narcotic, from SAHCO Import Shed.

The prosecutor also told the court that the SAHCO’s Assistant General Manager, Olajide, conspired with Sanyaolu Rasheed Oladele, and procured one Lawal Itunu Temitope, to transport the prohibited substance from SAHCO Import Shed in a Mercedes Benz Bus with Registration Number LAGOS MUS 269 YC, belonging to Platinum Pacific International Limited.

He further informed the court that another staff of SAHCO, Sanyaolu Rasheed Oladele, unlawfully possessed the said 1, 440. 90 kilograms of Tramadol 225mg, a Narcotic Analgesic.

The prosecutor told the court that the offences committed by the defendants, contravened sections 14 (b), 21 (2)(d) and 20 (1)(c) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Cap. N30, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. And punishable under sections 11 (b) and 20 (2)(b) of the same Act.

All the defendants denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Following their not guilty plea, the prosecutor asked the court for a trial date and also urged the court to remand them in the custody of the Nigerian Correctional Services (NCoS), till the hearing and determination of the charge.

However, lawyers to the defendants, told the court that they have filed their clients’ bail application except that of the Assistant General Manager, Kafidipe Ahmed Olajide and Obinna Henry.

The lawyer therefore asked the court for a short date, to enable them file the bail applications for the duo.

With the development, the prosecutor, Mr. Abu Ibrahim, urged the court to remand all the defendants in NCoS’ custody till when the court will hear their bail applications.

But the trial judge, Justice Dipeolu, in his reasoning, order the operatives of the NDLEA to call their Airport Commander, to allow the defendants to be remanded in their custody till tomorrow, January 17, when their bail applications will be heard and determined.

Upon the complied with the court’s directive, which was granted by the Commander, the court ordered the remand of all the defendants in NDLEA till tomorrow, while adjourned to January 24, 2024, for the commencement of their trial.
Source: Ontimenews.com

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Tinubu Sacks Heads of Aviation Agencies, Asks EFCC to Investigate NCAA’s Financial Transactions

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In a move that has caught stakeholders in the Aviation sector unawares, President Bola Tinubu has approved the suspension, removal, and replacement of Chief Executive Officers under the Federal Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development

The Special Adviser to the President Media & Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale who made this known in a statement on Wednesday, said the leadership change is in line with the President’s determination to bring world class standards to Nigerian Civil Aviation in consumer protection and the promotion of the wellbeing of Nigerian passengers and other sectoral stakeholders.

Ngelale announced that the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr. Kabir Yusuf Mohammed has been removed from office and replaced with Mrs. Olubunmi Oluwaseun Kuku as the substantive Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria.

Also, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Mr. Tayib Adetunji Odunowo has been removed from office and replaced with Engr. Umar Ahmed Farouk as the substantive Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency.

The Director-General of the Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB), Engr. Akinola Olateru has been removed from office and replaced with Mr. Alex Badeh Jr. as the substantive Director-General of the Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau.

The Director-General of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), Prof. Mansur Bako Matazu has been removed from office and replaced with Prof. Charles Anosike as the substantive Director-General of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency.

He further noted that the Rector of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Capt. Alkali Mahmud Modibbo has been removed from office and replaced with Mr. Joseph Shaka Imalighwe as the Acting Rector of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), pending the appointment of a substantive Rector, in accordance with Section 13(2) of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology Act, 2022.

Meanwhile, Ngelale announced that the Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Shuaibu Nuhu has been suspended from office to enable the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to conduct an unfettered investigation into the activities of the suspended Director-General and other senior officials in the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, adding that Capt. Chris Najomo assumes office as the Acting Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority immediately.

“Furthermore, President Bola Tinubu approves the commencement of a diligent process to be conducted by the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development to recruit a substantive Vice-Chancellor and other principal officers of the African Aviation and Aerospace University (AAAU).

“The President anticipates that the new leadership across this critical sector will uphold the safety, convenience, and comfort of the Nigerian people as primary and sacrosanct in all of their administrative activities.

“Due to the high cost of underperformance in the sector, the President demands the immediate establishment of world-class policy design, implementation, and regulatory frameworks to reposition the sector in alignment with his Renewed Hope Agenda.

“All of the above-mentioned directives of the President take immediate effect”, he concluded

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