By Abel Orukpe – Lagos
Officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) yesterday disrupted Arik Air’s operations at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) Abuja over alleged N1.6 billion debt owed the agency.
The development, Daily Independent learnt affected several flights of the airline for over three hours.
The crisis led to protest by passengers that were stranded at the General Aviation Terminal in Lagos, where Arik operates from.
According to the Corporate Affairs and Public Affairs Manager, Mr Ola Adebanji, who confirmed the development, said that FAAN denied the airline’s staff access to their duty post making it impossible to process passengers for departures out of Abuja.
He stated that the latest action may not be unconnected with allegation of debt FAAN claimed Arik Air owed it, adding that the airline has described the debt figure by the agency as fictitious and malicious.
Adebanji, who argued that it does not owe FAAN any money since the agency’s charges are paid in advance on pay-as-you-go basis, said that this has been the practice for over two years when all the aviation agencies introduced pay-as-you-go for their services.
He described the bogus debt claim by FAAN is unacceptable to Arik Air, stressing that the Minister of Aviation, Chief Osita Chidoka had earlier stepped into the lingering debt issue between FAAN and Arik Air, and that he had directed that a firm of auditors be engaged to reconcile the books.
Adebanji stated that this process has not been concluded before the latest action by FAAN on Thursday morning.
The spokesman claimed that at about 10:50 am when the Minister of Aviation directed the FAAN Managing Director, Saleh Donuma to allow Arik Air access into the terminal, the directive, he said was not complied with by FAAN.
Source : Independent