Aviation Minister Bans Lufthansa

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The Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah,
has terminated the Memorandum of Association between the federal
government and the German airline, Lufthansa. Consequently, the airline,
yesterday suspended flights to the Murtala Mohammed International Airport,
Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport,Abuja.

A letter dated 7th November, 2012
addressed to the Vice-President of Deutche Lufthansa, and signed by the
Ministry of Aviation’s legal adviser, Bola Odugbesan, stated that the Minister
of Aviation has terminated the agreement it entered into with the airline in
November, 2008.

The letter, a copy of which was
obtained by Peoples Daily, reads: “In accordance with the provisions of Article
5 of the Memorandum of Understanding entered into between the Honourable
Minister of Aviation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Deutche Lufthansa
Aktiengesellschaft (LH) on the 10th 0f November, 2008, the Honourable Minister
of Aviation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria hereby terminates the
aforementioned Memorandum of Understanding with immediate effect”.

Acknowledging the receipt of the
termination letter, in a letter signed by the airlines’ Director of Network
Planning and Hub Development Frankfurt, Sebestian Hollmier and Director,
Corporate International Relations and Government Affairs, Andreas Bulling, the
airline however stated that the said termination by the Nigerian government
would become effective on 20th November, 2012 (yesterday).
It could be recalled that in May,
Senate Committee on Aviation had ordered Lufthansa Airlines to pay to the
Federal Government N2.198 billion ($14.8 million), being debt owed from
non-payment of royalty to the Federal Government from its flight operations
from 2009 to October 2011 or face sanctions.
Chairman of the committee, Senator
Hope Uzodinma, who gave the directive  at a stakeholders’ meeting
organised by the Senate Committee on Aviation said it was based upon
discoveries that Lufthansa Airlines had violated its Bilateral Air Services
Agreement, (BASA), with the Federal Ministry of Aviation in 2008.
Angered by what it discovered, the
Uzodinma-led Senate committee ordered Lufthansa to pay N2.198 billion ($14.8
million) debt owed to the FG.  The order was issued less than a week after
the foreign airlines were asked to also refund the billions of Naira allegedly
held back in tax accruals to the federal government.
Uzodinma, while lamenting that
Lufthansa took advantage of the Nigerian market to violate the agreement,
ordered the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), to ground the airline if
it failed to pay the debt.
The directive was issued by the
chairman after the committee heard that Lufthansa was flying 14 frequencies to
the country instead of 4 passenger and 3 cargo flights allowed by the Bilateral
Air Service Agreement (BASA).
The committee was told that the
former Aviation Minister, Babatunde Omotoba, gave a verbal approval to
Lufthansa to be flying additional 7 frequencies and that Lufthansa has refused
to pay an accumulated $14.8 million. The committee had thereafter summoned
former Minister to appear before it over the violation of aviation laws by
Lufthansa.
Uzodinma was angry that the
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed with Lufthansa in 2008 in which it
agreed to train Nigerian Pilots and provide some equipment at the airports were
discarded by the airline and it has also refused to pay its royalties.
The NCAA has claimed at a
stakeholders’ meeting that Lufthansa suspended payment of royalties to Nigeria
since 2009. 
Uzodinma said, “As at 2009 to
November 2011, we have an outstanding $14,833,000.00 and the invoices are here
issued by NCAA. I want you to support NCAA, retrieve your letter so that they
can receive their money because this is an entitlement of government.
“I think that as we call for the
review of your MoU and the BASA, we ask Lufthansa to pay all monies due to
government. It is unfortunate Lufthansa people are not here, they are quick at
sending lawyers.”
According to the chairman, “As at
2009 to November 2011, we have an outstanding $14,833,000.00 and the invoices
are here issued by NCAA. I want you to support NCAA, retrieve your letter so
that they can receive their money because this is an entitlement of government.
“I think that as we call for the review
of your MoU and the BASA, we ask Lufthansa to pay all monies due to government.
It is unfortunate Lufthansa people are not here, they are quick at sending
lawyers”.
“We have this huge market here that
must be protected so when they go and have something convenient for them in
Ghana and Togo that is not up to two local governments in Nigeria, you now use
it as a model to implement policies in Nigeria and we lose money. This makes us
look stupid before the international community.
“I think, as a matter of fact, you
must join hands and protect the market which is our own treasure. So in my
opinion, you should liaise with the NCAA and recover this money from Lufthansa.
If it means grounding all the aircraft to ensure that our laws are obeyed, we
will do it. We must develop the will as a people”, Uzodinma had stated.
However, all efforts to contact
officials of Lufthansa Airline on the issue and to find out what will happen to
those who have booked ahead did not yield any positive result.
Similarly, when our reporter
contacted the NCAA spokesman, Mr.  Sam Adurogboye on the issue, he claimed
not to be aware of the FG’s ban.
When contacted to comment on the
issue, Special Assistant to the Aviation Minister on media, Mr. Joe Obi, said
that based on what the MoU contained, any party to the agreement that is not
benefiting from a signed MoU has the right to opt out, and since it has come to
an end, there is no need of renewing it.
It could be recalled that the Federal
Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had recently named Lufthansa airline as the
best International carrier in Nigeria for the year 2011.
Source: People’s daily

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