Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Friday in Abuja, secured a landmark victory over the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) as the Supreme Court in a unanimous judgment, dismissed its appeal over the payment of en route charges.
It was a protracted battle that lasted eight years and bred animosity between the agency and airline operators with its officials literally fighting the management of NAMA.
NAMA in 2006 defeated the domestic airline operators over the same issue at the Appeal Court in Lagos which declared that the airlines had no reason not to pay for services rendered to them by the agency.
A panel of five judges headed by Hon. Justice Mary Odili, while dismissing the appeal by AON, affirmed that NAMA was statutorily empowered to charge the domestic airlines on the controversial enroute services like their foreign counterparts.
The court thereafter awarded a cost of N100, 000 in favour of NAMA.
NAMA management said it loses an average of N500milllion accruable revenue annually following the refusal of the domestic carriers to honour bills on enroute services as they often claimed to have “godfather’s right” to evade payment.
The Managing Director of NAMA, Nnamdi Udoh, who was elated by the judgment, attributed the legal victory to the agency’s firm belief in due process in tackling contentious issues like the navigational charges.
”From the beginning of this case in 2006, we have chosen not to disrupt the activities of the airlines, even when we, the Appellant Court in Lagos gave us the power to collect our charges.
”We were patient enough not to rock the boat and that is why we followed it up to the apex court with the AON and today (yesterday) the panel of judges in a unanimous decision dismissed the appeal to our favour.
”This victory is part of the transformation agenda of the federal government and we really give kudos to the jurists who in their wisdom delivered this landmark judgment for the aviation sector to move forward”, Udoh said.
The NAMA boss consequently appeal to the domestic carriers to commence the process of liquidating their respective outstanding bills of more than N4 billion on the charges.
Udoh remarked that the agency has been consistent in providing quality air navigation services to the airlines, urging them to play their own part by paying their bills regularly as free lunch was now over.
He added that the self-sustaining agency requires a lot of funds to run the system and create a peaceful industrial harmony through training of personnel and regular payment of salary.