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N5bn Bailout: Aviation Operators Lament Exemption

Many aviation jobs are on the line
Many aviation jobs are on the line

With the disbursement of a N5 billion bailout in January 2021, there are some airlines who said they have not benefited from this first tranche.

Out of the N5bn, airlines got N4bn, while others, including ground handlers, caterers, travel agents, aviation fuel marketers, as well as airport car hire operators, got N1bn.

Despite this, Aero Contractors, West Link, and Tropical Arctic Logistics (TAL) Helicopters Company, among others said they have not benefited from the payroll support.

The managing director of West Link, Captain Ibrahim Mshelia, said: “My office submitted the necessary documents. They said we should submit our accounts and other details to the Ministry of Aviation for the collection of palliatives. We wrote to the minister directly and alerted the committee, which was received.”

Mshelia said the issue of palliative was shrouded in secrecy, adding that many of his colleagues have not benefited.

Femi Adeniji, an engineer of Tropical Arctic Logistics TAL Helicopter said, “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.

“Up to last Friday, I still called them to find out what was going on. Unfortunately, I was in the US when my company’s name was published among those who would receive the palliative, but we have not gotten anything up until now.”

Meanwhile, operators have demanded the balance of N22bn of the bailout as the total approved sum is N27bn.

The N27bn was approved by the federal government for the industry by the Economic Sustainability Committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to cushion the effect of the COVID-19 lockdown on the industry.

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The fund was to extend grant support, including payroll support to the aviation industry – airlines, handlers, caterers and related services; provision of single digit soft loans, with long term repayment plan; deferred payment of taxes and filing dates. An aviation analyst, Group Captain John Ojikutu (retd), said the six aviation agencies also deserved the palliatives to fix their equipment, which are critical to smooth airline operations.

On the latest update on the fund, Comrade Olayinka Abioye, a former general secretary of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) said, “The agencies are liaising with the Ministry of Finance for the money, but I was made to understand that there were small challenges between the finance and the Ministry of Aviation.”

When contacted, the director of public affairs in the ministry, Mr James Odaudu, did not respond to our correspondent’s enquiries on the palliatives at the time of filing this report.

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