Domestic airlines have not been remitting the mandatory five per cent ticket sales charge (TSC) to Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) due to their inability to automate their operating systems and connect to the platform provided by Avitech, the concessionaire handling revenue automation for NCAA, THISDAY checks have revealed. It was learnt that over 90 per cent of the TSC collected by NCAA are remitted by foreign airlines through the International Air Transport Association's (IATA) Billings Settlement Plan (BSP).
Speaking to journalists, the National Vice President of Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) Mr. Ahmadu Illitrius, said the association and other labour unions in the aviation industry had deliberated over "this lingering issue." He, however, expressed regret that the airlines had refused to comply with the government's directive. "This is a lingering issue and we have been on it at ATSSSAN and the other unions for quite some time. The problem is that the domestic airline operators are not quite forth-coming with the remittance of five per cent TSC. This is an issue we have taken up to the ministerial level. A committee was set up in the past which looked at it and a certain agreement was reached by way of liquidating the backlog of the debts over a period of time.
"It is over three years now. There is nothing happening. Even at that, the current remittances are not being made. It is a problem because the bulk of agencies that provides services that aid the take-off and landing of flights here in Nigeria are not getting the money to enable them carry out the functions," he said. Illitrius added that some airlines were treated like sacred cows, saying such airlines had been allowed to get away with infraction. "There are airlines (local) in Nigeria that will not give the ticket coupons for the purpose of gathering data to determine how much TSC accrues to NCAA from the airlines.
The automation is not working the way it should. There are some airlines that refuse to key to the automation. There are some airlines that are recalcitrant violators of remittances of the TSC to NCAA and because nothing has been done to them, the other airlines are doing the same thing. So, if you cannot call Mr. A to order, you cannot correct Mr. B. So, that is the challenge," he added. He said non-remittance of the tax to NCAA would affect the operations of the agency as well as the finances of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) and the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) that share from the TSC remittances.
"NCAA is a regulator, it conducts a lot of training. For you to regulate, your level of knowledge and experience, the qualification of the inspector must be equal but above that of the industry being regulated. The training of these personnel is expensive. Where NCAA does not get these remittances from the operators, it is a problem. So, we need to look at the issue of non-remittances by the local airlines," he stressed. Most of the airlines refused to comment on the matter, saying they were discussing with NCAA and "we will resolve it in a manner that will satisfy all the parties.
Spokesman for NCAA, Mr. Fan Ndubuoke, declined to comment on the issue as he did not respond to the text messages sent to his mobile phone. But a staff member of the agency who craved anonymity said that the domestic airlines were not remitting the tax adding that "even the automation concessionaire seems not to be serious." "Virtually every day, you see different people coming as staff members of the company to make one enquiry or the other. Different people come to ask for the same thing almost all the time," he said. In September 2012, the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, directed all the agencies in the Ministry to automate all their revenue collection processes.
Before the ministerial pronouncement, all revenues accruing to the parastatals were collected manually, thereby resulting in huge losses through leakages inherent in the manual procedure. Oduah had said First Bank of Nigeria Plc, together with professional bodies like IATA, SociÉtÉ Internationale de TÉlÉcommunications AÉronautiques, (SITA), and Avitech among others, would lead the collection process.
In the arrangement, the software provider, Avitech is responsible for providing the automation platform as it had a tripartite agreement with the NCAA, airlines and their individual banks.