House halts new handling rates, summons stakeholders

6. The House of Representatives yesterday, approved President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for ongoing external loans to the tune of $8,325,526,537 (USD) and €490,000,000 (Euros) under the 2018-2020 External Borrowing (Rolling) Plan.

The implementation of the new ground handling rates approved for handling companies operating in the Aviation sector after 35 years of the old rates has been put on hold, it was learnt.

The House of Representatives Committee on Aviation advised that the new rates be put on hold pending a meeting with stakeholders slated for Wednesday.

The committee led by Hon. Nnolim Nnaji took the decision following a joint petition written by foreign and domestic airlines which opposed the new rates approved by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

Newsmen report that following a cry by the handling companies represented by the Association of Ground Handlers of Nigeria (AGHAN), the NCAA reviewed the rate upward to be at par with what obtains in other African countries.

Handling companies in Nigeria hitherto charged between $300 to $1000 to handle a narrow-body aircraft compared to $1,400 to $1600 charged in other African countries.

For wide-body aircraft, they charge about $3,000 while $5,000 is charged in sub-Saharan African countries for similar aircraft types.

But with the new rates approved for Nigerian firms increased the charges which were to take effect on October 1 for foreign airlines and January 2022 for domestic carriers.

NCAA in a document approved between $1,500 and $5,000 (passenger and cargo flights) for handlers for narrow and wide-body aircraft respectively, while for domestic flights, operators will now pay between N25, 000 and N70,000 depending on the aircraft type.

But the implementation has been stalled following advice by the House of Representatives as stakeholders are expected in Abuja on Wednesday to iron out the issue.

Those summoned by the House included the Director-General of the NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu and the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Captain Rabiu Yadudu.

Yadudu was asked to come with AGHAN and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to explain the rationale for the astronomical increase.

Nnaji had while advising the ground handlers to shelve the implementation expressed concern that the new rate would eventually be transferred to the passengers as it would likely reflect in airfare.

The gap between the old rate and new rate, he noted, “appears too high and does not support any economic logic and economy of scale”.

A source in AGHAN told newsmen yesterday that the association would be in Abuja on Wednesday to explain its position.

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