By Dele Ogbod
The Minister of Aviation, Mr. Osita Chidoka has hinted that passengers’ air fare charges may be reviewed downward, following the recommendation of a committee on aeronautical fare disparities, which submitted its report yesterday.
Chidoka spoke in Abuja, while receiving the report from the committee set up a month ago to review all aeronautical charges at the airport.
The panel, headed by Mr. Ahonsi Unuigbe, submitted that the over 50 multiple charges by agencies and airline operators at the airport were inimical to the overall development of the aviation industry.
According to Chidoka, “That is what we are going to look at and within the next one week, we shall come out with what will be the new rates. Some of the charges will have to go, those the airlines cannot explain we would do away with and those they can explain we will find out whether they are still available in today’s world.”
He said he would find out the basis for the alleged recent fuel surcharges imposed on air transportation configuration, asking, “What is the rationale for that surcharge. These are issues I think will be of interest to Nigerians to create transparency in the core structure of the aviation sector,” adding; “I think that this is most important for Nigerians that we should have transparency in what constitute this cost and why we are paying for it.”
While fielding questions from reporters on the N154 billion owed contractors, he said: “Today we are talking about the passengers disparities in the aeronautical charges and I would like us to focus on this for the simple reason that this impact on the ministry’s ability to raise finance for government and I thought that it would be of importance to journalists in the view of the falling oil prices.
“In view of the debt that you talked about that our focus should be how to make sure that the resources that are coming into the ministry are properly captured and that airlines do not owe government and that passengers are not overcharged and that resources are used in a manner that would advance our national image.”
The Minister however stated that the submission of the report marked another beginning to sanitise and redirect the industry towards being customer-centric and as net contributor to the GDP and national development aspiration.
According to him, “Government shall be guided by two major principles in implementing the committee’s report, which are that of national interest in making sure that our customers get value for their money. So, to this end, I will ask the Permanent Secretary to chair a group of the CEOs of the agencies to review and adopt the recommendations and see all the relevant approvals they need to implement decisions and in alignment with our goal of making the aviation industry to be self-sustaining and by next week Friday I expect to hear from you on all the recommendations of this committee and move forward immediately in implementing it.
“I must say that we will not be lacking in the political will to implement this because we shall be guided purely by our national interest and I want to confirm that all the necessary stakeholders in the industry agree that there is need to align ourselves with global best practices and so this is the beginning of that journey and I must say that everybody will benefit when the rules of the game are transparent and when the outcomes are products of fair play.”
Unuigbe said the committee’s finding would help address many of the issues currently bedevilling the sector, while reshaping the underhand practices in the industry.
“With respect to passenger ticket charges, the basis of some of these charges is not known and extremely arbitrary. For example, the committee analysed the basis of computation of passenger tickets for four domestic airlines: Arik, Dana, Medview and First Nation. The analysis shows that charges ranging from 40 per cent to 65 per cent of the air fare are hidden as fuel surcharge also known as YQ”, he pointed out.
Unuigbe said some airline operators charge as high as nine per cent of base fare as ticket sales charge as against the statutory five per cent expected to be remitted to government through the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).