A new twist was introduced to the debt fiasco among aviation agencies and airlines on Sunday, as Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), operator of the Murtala Muhammed Airport Two (MMA2), Lagos, claimed that the Arik Air’s alleged N12.5 billion indebtedness to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) ‘is part of its ‘legitimate’ revenue that FAAN continues to appropriate despite several legal pronouncements’.
It would be recalled will recall that the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NAUTE) Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), FAAN branch, had prevented Arik from carrying out its domestic operations at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT), Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, during the impasse.
BASL, in a statement signed by Adebisi Awoniyi, its Chief Operations Officer, the airport terminal operator claims several court rulings had recognized it as the genuine owner of GAT in Lagos adding that as such, any transaction/that occurs or revenue that is generated from the terminal (GAT), belongs to BASL.
“We want the public, particularly relevant stakeholders, to note that the country’s law recognises Bi-Courtney as the genuine owner of GAT, thus, making FAAN’s continuous operation of the terminal illegal and a clear violation of the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. FAAN however, continues to defy the laws of the land. It has openly and recklessly denied our company 60 per cent of its revenue by its continuous illegal operation of the GAT as a competing terminal to MMA2 even after an Arbitration Panel, a Court of Law and an Appeal Court had ruled in our favour.
“Consequently, all revenues, such as Passenger Processing Charge, space rental, fuel surcharge and others, which FAAN had been collecting and continues to collect from its unlawful operation of the GAT, including the N12.5 billion in contention between FAAN and Arik Air, belong to Bi-Courtney. The implication of this is that both FAAN and Arik Air are indeed fighting over monies that lawfully belong to Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited”, she said.
According to her, it is public knowledge that the various court judgments on the issue, including the arbitration panel, which first adjudicated the dispute between Bi-Courtney and FAAN, on the terms of the concession agreement for the reconstruction and operation of MMA2, “unambiguously affirmed Bi-Courtney’s ownership of the GAT.
She added that there is a subsisting judgment of N132 billion in favour of Bi-Courtney, which FAAN has refused to honour due to its blatant disregard for the laws of Nigeria.
This judgment, she said was obtained in 2012, adding that this amount four years on would have increased.
Particular judgments confirming the owner of GAT as Bi-Courtney , according to her, include the 2009 ruling of Justice J. Chikere of the Abuja Federal High Court in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CJ/50/2009.
The same judgment was reaffirmed in a ruling on February 13, 2013 by Justice A.R. Mohammed of the same court in a suit filed by FAAN and the Ministry of Aviation, asking the court to declare that they were not bound by the ruling of Justice Chikere. Justice Mohammed, in his ruling, had stated categorically that by suing the Attorney-General of the Federation, Bi-Courtney’s suit was binding on all agencies of the Federal Government.
“We also wish to remind all and emphasise that the GAT was declared an integral part of the MMA2 concession by the decision of the Federal High Court in 2009. But in a desperate move to prevent the handing over of the premises to Bi-Courtney Limited, four appeals were filed and lost by the following: Attorney- General of the Federation, Ojemaie Holdings (landlord to Arik Air), NUATE and ATSSAN (Trade Unions under the Ministry of Aviation) and FAAN.
“There is, therefore, no doubt on the current position of the law in respect to the ownership of the GAT, nor the fact that Bi-Courtney is the rightful owner of the N12.5b that is the subject of dispute between Arik Air and FAAN”, she added.
By: Sade Williams