The relationship between Air Peace, one of the domestic carriers in Nigeria, and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has taken a turn for the worst following the delay of the airline’s flight from taking off as scheduled at Enugu Airport on Friday.
The FAAN, through its Enugu Airport Manager, Mgbemena Orjiakor, accused Air Peace of owing the airport landlord N7 million as part of the services rendered till the end of April this year, but the airline denied the allegation and insisted that it was not indebted to the FAAN.
Allen Onyema, Chairman of Air Peace, then accused Mr. Orjiakor of sabotaging the airline’s operations when it delayed its Friday flight for over two hours.
He said that the delay disrupted the company’s operations and cost the airline several millions of naira, stressing that its night operations back to Enugu Airport were affected.
Mr. Onyema threatened to sue the FAAN over the stalling of its operations at Enugu if it was not properly compensated by the management of the agency.
However, our correspondent revealed on Sunday that the Air Peace aircraft, a Boeing 5N-BQR flying from Enugu to Lagos, was actually delayed for 43 minutes and not two hours as claimed by Mr. Onyema.
The aircraft that was scheduled to depart Enugu at 7:15 a.m. eventually departed at 7:58 a.m. after the airport manager confirmed that Air Peace had paid off some of its debts.
On the alleged debt, further investigation by our correspondent revealed that the company was actually indebted to the FAAN to the tune of N7 million before the stalling of the flight, but the airline company claimed to have paid the sum of N2 million out of the total debt, which according to a source close to FAAN was yet to reflect in the finance records of the agency as at today.
It was also learnt that the airline has yet to pay the balance of N5 million as claimed by its chairman while another N3 million debt had accumulated from May 2017 till date.
Commenting on the issue, Comrade Abdulrasaq Saidu, Secretary General of the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP), who claimed to have been following the development, commended the airport manager, Mr. Orjiakor, for his boldness to stop the aircraft from flying.
Mr. Saidu also wanted other airport managers to emulate Mr. Orjiakor in order to force debtor airlines to pay up their debts to the various agencies in the industry.
Mr. Saidu accused the nation’s airlines of running personal businesses at the expense of the government and wondered why they must accumulate debts.
“Why must these airlines be accumulating debts to the extent they accumulated Passengers Services Charge (PSC)? The debts that Bellview, Chanchangi and others owed before they went under - who paid?
“You must have to pay for the services rendered if you are in business. Actions and steps taken by the Airport Manager of Enugu are quite supportive, quite commendable and we welcome it. Let Air Peace go and settle its debts fully.
“ANAP as professional body will ensure that airlines are paying and do not accumulate debts. If any airline is not ready for business, it should leave the business. You don't shortchange the government because the government of today is for accountability,” he told our correspondent.
He recalled that the accumulation of unserviced debts led to the introduction of a ‘pay as you go’ scheme by a former Minister of Aviation, Fidelia Njeze, in 2008.
He also alleged that Air Peace for about three times could not land at the Enugu Airport due to violating the 7 p.m. deadline.