When the Federal Government last year during the lockdown announced a N27 billion palliative to the aviation industry to cushion the effects of the pandemic, there were rains of commendation by stakeholders and non-stakeholders alike for the FG’s kind consideration for the industry.
Though many industry stakeholders say the money was grossly inadequate for an industry is worse hit, they say it was better than having nothing at all.
The sharing formula was mapped out and satisfaction was expressed by the beneficiaries, schedule airline operators, ground handling companies, car hire associations, travel agencies, non-scheduled airline operators among others when N5b was released.
Out of the N27 billion, only N5billion has so far been disbursed by the Ministry of Aviation and questions are being raised as to where the balance N22 billion is as stakeholders are in dare need of their palliative.
So far, few airlines and stakeholders have received their palliative, these are Airpeace, the embattled Azman air, Dana, NAHCOaviance, Arik air, skypower and others depending as being alleged probably on their closeness to the corridors of power or perhaps as par friendship sake or the strength they weigh in the system.
Aerocontractors, westlink, TAL, others yet to receive their palliative.
There are stories making the rounds that the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika may want to deploy the balance of the money to certain projects.
The Minister is alleged to have claimed that the remaining N22bn would be expended on aviation roadmap and national carrier.
In a tweet in 2018, the aviation minister announced the indefinite suspension of the National Carrier project “I regret to announce that the Federal Executive Council has taken the tough decision to suspend the national carrier project in the interim. All commitments due will be honoured. We thank the public for the support as always”.
If this is true, then one wonders why, a national carrier project suspended by the same Federal Government would be allowed to take the largest chunk of the money meant for an industry that has suffered greatly from a pandemic? The palliative is meant to cushion the effects of the pandemic not for an airline that never existed anywhere.
Also, the much talked about roadmap is yet to be seen or properly and convincingly articulated according to industry watchers.
Some aggrieved stakeholders who spoke on the yet to be disbursed balance N22billion say, the disbursement is shrouded in secrecy.
Chairman, Westlink Aviation, Capt. Ibrahim Mshelia says, as an operator, he had not received anything and attempts made had not yielded any results.
“We wrote to the minister directly and attention the committee, which was received, the whole thing is a mirage. I don’t know what is going on. I have not received. There are some people who have received?”
He added, “what I can say is that everything seems to be shrouded in secrecy. Nobody knows anything. I know government has given us money and I heard some people have not received. I know other colleagues who has not equally”.
“It is obvious the ministry just handpicked those they wanted. They don’t want to give. It appears that we are less in number that didn’t receive. It is obvious a few of us were targeted. Whatever reason, I don’t know. Nobody has called me why I have not received and when I will receive it”.
“My office submitted the necessary documents. I am a member of AON. There is no leadership of AON as far as I am concerned because we are already in court. The minister and all the relevant people were served. They said we should submit our account and other details to the ministry of aviation for the collection of palliative”.
Engr. Femi Adeniji, Tropical Arctic Logistics (TAL) Helicopter Company stated that salaries were still being owed and the palliative meant to address it was yet to be received.
He wondered why some operators were given and others not, adding that all his efforts also had failed.
“They said they were going to give it to us, salaries are still being owed, staff are complaining. If they say they are going to give us, let them give us. They should not put it in the newspapers and nothing happens thereafter”.
According to him, ” I have tried, I have called the Federal Ministry of Aviation; I have four helicopters that I am operating. They asked us to send account numbers, which we did”.
“Even up to last Friday, I still called them to find out what is going on. Unfortunately, I was in the US when my company’s name was published as among those who will receive the palliative, but we have not gotten anything up until now”.
Aerocontractors Managing Director, Captain Abdullahi Mahmood says, “Aero has not gotten the palliatives because there was mistake on the account and the money was sent back to Ministry of finance but we are in process of getting it. Aero has not gotten a dime in the name of palliatives. We have been given full assurance and nobody has taken the money “
Some people are also of the opinion that the Ministry of Aviation may not to be entirely blamed for the non disbursement of the palliative probably because the Ministry of Finance was yet to release the money.
This was the submission of comrade Olayinka Abioye”I am not sure if the money has been released to the ministry, the agencies are still struggling to get the money from ministry of finance. All agencies have submitted their needs, which is mainly on staff salary and overhead”.
“The agencies are liaising with finance for the money, but I was made to understand that there were small challenges between the finance and aviation Ministry”, he added.
For Group Captain John Ojikutu(rtd), some of palliative should also be used to fix certain safety critical facilities in the industry to ensure safety.
“We have been talking of MMA Runway 18L lightings, so are the lightings of the runways of most airports, yet we are claiming satisfaction in the NCAA certification for them”.
“There are security issues around most airports perimeter fences that we have not been able to enhance their security in the event of any incursions or invasion especially now that bandits are said to be everywhere;
There is the ATCs communication to be addressed, so are the periodic maintenance of the navigation aids, radar and others. Quite a lot has to be done on the new airports terminal buildings, but the revenues are not coming because of the Covid-19 lockdown; the revenues are not coming because there are no flights and government aviation staff can not earn salaries.
He sought to know how much would be deployed for the national carrier project if part of the balance N22billion is to be used for the financing of the project.
“If the airlines are getting palliatives to revamp their operations and pay salaries, we should expect same for the government agencies, too for their equipment and staff; how much for these? We need to know for the six aviation agencies; how much for the new ‘national carrier’? We need to know. So, ask the NASS Senate and House of Representatives that approved the money and the ministry that is disbursing it”.