By Sade Williams/Business am
There has been a strong reaction from domestic airline operators following allegations suggesting fraudulent behavior by aviation agencies in the country over some N19 billion owed to the agencies. Under their umbrella, Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), they denied defrauding aviation agencies and said the business of airlines globally is not a cash and carry business.
The AON was reacting to allegations that some airlines misappropriated money intended to be given to aviation agencies for their own use.
The association, in a statement signed by its vice president, Allen Onyema, did not deny that some airlines owe debts, but noted that owing debts in itself does not constitute fraud.
“AON wishes to express its very strong reservations about such accusations and we strongly deny that our members are defrauding or [that they] defrauded government agencies of said amount or any amount for that matter.
“Airline operations, worldwide, are not a cash and carry business. All airlines in the world have debts that are settled as they operate. Nigeria is no exception.
“It is true that some of our members have very bad debts, but not all of our members have such debts. Owing debts in itself does not constitute fraud. We very strongly disagree with the criminalization of all Nigerian airlines as a result of said debts,” he said.
The statement noted that “multiple parties were present at a stakeholder meeting and DG NCAA has at no time used such words to describe Nigerian airlines. On the contrary, the meeting ended on a friendly note, with everyone agreeing to work together to settle the debts.
“It is relevant to point out that some of these debts are owed by airlines that no longer exist.
“However, we advise our members with such bad debts to use the agencies and offer repayment plans. Airlines in Nigeria are operating in a very difficult environment and need everyone’s full support,” he added.