Africa: Disparity Trails Air Passengers’ Traffic In Nigeria As NBS Releases New Figures

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The lack of reliable accurate data gathering and information in Nigeria has played up its head again as the figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) for air travellers in the country in 2017 is over two  million at variance with the earlier one released by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

The discrepancy in the figures released, stakeholders said, would make international communities to look at the country as unserious.

An earlier report released by NCAA indicated that only 11,221,617 passengers passed through the nation’s 32 airports in 2017, representing 26.3 percent drop when compared to the preceding year.

The breakdown of NCAA statistics indicated that eight domestic airlines ferried 7,646,075 as inbound and outbound passengers while the 30 international carriers airlifted 3,575,542 passengers within the period.

The total passengers airlifted by domestic airlines represented 53.2 percent of the total volume of passengers ferried within the period as against 72 percent recorded in 2016.

But, statistics released by NBS late last week, gave the full year passengers’ traffic for 2017 at 13,394,945, of which 6,693,687 at arrivals and 6,701,258 at departures.

The difference in the data released by the two organisations indicated 2,173,328 passengers, a situation, which led to the query of NBS data by players in the sector.

Commenting on the disparity, Grp. Capt. Jon Ojikutu (rtd), the General Secretary of Aviation Round Table (ART) said that it was not the first time that the NBS would release conflicting figures from that of NCAA or any other agency in the sector.

For instance, he said that NBS in its statistics for 2016 said aviation industry contributed less than one per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), despite the report of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which said the sector contributed $8.5bn to the economy in the same period.

Ojikutu noted that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), which is in charge of passenger traffic in the sector and NCAA came out with about 11 million passengers’ traffic for the industry in 2017 and wondered where NBS got its statistics from if not from the government agencies in the industry.

He said: “This is not the first time that the NBS would goof with conflicting figures from aviation recorded statistics. Last year, it said that the industry contributed less than one per cent to the national GDP, even when IATA said that aviation contributed $8.5bn.

“This figure did not include the domestic airlines earnings, while only about 30 per cent of the figures are for tickets sales, which the foreign airlines repatriated home; the rest 70 per cent are in payment for Passenger Service Charge (PSC), landing and parking, ground handling services, air traffic and navigational services, fuel services and others.

“Remember that FAAN “the airport passenger traffic gate keeper and the NCAA came out with similar figures of about 11 million passenger traffic and that the figure was 26 per cent less than the figures of last year.”

Ojikutu called on the aviation agencies to jointly take the NBS to task on the conflicting reports and report such to the office of the ministry of national planning before organisations started using the NBS figures for national planning.

“The government must investigate the source of the NBS figures,” he said.

On his part, Mr. Olumide Ohunayo, the Direct, Research, Zenith Travels said that data basically is used to plan, access, analyse and extrapolate.

But, once there are discrepancies in data, the main essence is destroyed while it also gives room for fraudulent activities.

He said that the wrong statistics released by NBS may be as a result of carelessness or orchestrated fraud to have a wide difference of over two million passengers.

Ohunayo called for reconciliation of figures as a first step to correct such anomalies in the future while the government could also probe the process of data gathering to determine if the intent was to defraud the system.

He added: “The automation of air transport industry has greatly improved data capturing why we have different figures in Nigeria really baffles me. Considering these figures are needed to complement airport concession process while also using it to attract investors to our airlines and other sectors of the industry.

“Prompt investigation of present discrepancies is key while the ministry coordinates data information, which should be delivered on a monthly basis.”

According to NBS, the passenger traffic of 13,394,945, indicated that the total figure fell by 8.03 per cent from 2016 and attributed this to the six-week closure of Abuja airport in March 2017.

It however said that the annual total numbers of domestic and international air passengers grew by 8.40 per cent and 7. 15 per cent respectively compared with the previous year.

NBS said that Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Owerri and Kano airports remained the busiest through the year of 2017.

According to the organization, passengers travelled through Abuja airport largely increased from quarter two (577,386 domestic and 692,207 international) to quarter three (841,401 domestic and 231,414 international) due to the reopening of Abuja airport.

Kaduna airport recorded higher than usual numbers of domestic traffic in the first two quarters of 2017 (124,996 in Q1 and 129,034 in quarter two) since a large proportion of air traffic through Abuja was redirected to Kaduna after Abuja airport’s closure in March 2017.

The agency added: “The annual total number of aircraft arrived at or departed from Nigerian airports in 2017 stood at 214,258, which grew marginally by 0.61 per cent from the same quarter in 2016. Cargo movement kept declining since the year of 2014. The annual volume of cargo movement in 2017 -bottomed at 161,800,520kg (a decline by 17.07 per cent from the annual figure in 2016).

“Abuja international airport recorded the highest year-on-year decline in cargo movement traffic among the five airports (59.21 per cent), followed by declines at Enugu (44.35 per cent), and Lagos (18.19 per cent). Cargo movement at Kano international airport and Port Harcourt international airport in 2017 increased by 20.28 per cent and 17.56 per cent respectively.”

Ojikutu calls for CAA’s probe
It a related development, GROUP Captain John Ojikutu has called on government to probe the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA’s) 5% earning on the Passengers’ Tickets and Cargo Sales Charges (TSC &CSC) respectively following contradicting figures thrown around by various agencies.

This is just as he called on Ministry of State for Aviation, the Committees of the National Assembly on Aviation, Public Finance, Accounts and Appropriation, Concerned and Credible Government and Private Aviation Operators to begin the evaluation of the gross earnings and the level of exploitation of the 5% of all the various sales and charges listed in the Civil Aviation Act 2006 Part 12 (1) from 2015 to 2017.

The scribe of the Aviation round Table (ART) who reacted to the disparity of figures and earnings being thrown around by various government agencies stated that government in a bid to get clarity should know the gross and net earnings from the statutory charges and the losses through manipulation of figures; all of which run into billions of naira every year.

According to Ojikutu, the NCAA is tasked in the Part 12 (1) of the Act to collect on behalf of itself and four other aviation agencies, 5% charges on all the Airlines Passengers’ Ticket Sales, Air Chartered Services charges, Cargo Freight Charges etc. for the development and improvement of safety and security infrastructural systems, services and human capital development of related operations in the aviation sector.

He however alleged that the manner the regulatory agency has carried out its function in the last 10 years has not been palatable.

He said, “Unfortunately, the manner the recordings of the earnings from these statutory charges had been handled by the NCAA and its Consultants in the last 10 years and still being handled today, nobody, not even the National Assembly in its oversight responsibility of the sector, cared to know the gross and net earnings from the statutory charges and the losses too through manipulation of figures; all of which run into billions of naira every year. ”

“The other four aviation agencies, viz: NAMA, AIB, NCAT and NIMET that share the earnings from the charges in the ratio of 23%, 3%, 7%, 9% respectively, appeared to be complacent and content with whatever is given to them by the NCAA whose share is 58%. None of them appeared to have knowledge on how to assess the true or actual amount that is collected yearly from those charges. Yet they all have challenges of insufficient funds for developing and improving their infrastructures and the manpower needed to sustain their operations.”

According to him, the consequences of the manipulation of the records figures and the exploitation of the earnings by those charged or contracted by the NCAA to collect the charges and the complacency of the major shareholders of the earnings are grave on safety operations activities and services of both the government and the private operators in the sector.

He quoted,”At a Press Conference in February, 2017, the NCAA released a report that showed earnings from Airlines Ticket Sales alone for the year 2015 and 2016 as N385 billion and N330 billion respectively. These figures were not broken down to elucidate the earnings for neither international nor domestic passengers but could implied that the 5% Ticket Sales Charges (TSC) from these earnings would be about N19.25 billion and N16.5 billion respectively for 2015 and 2016. ”

“These figures are misleading when compared with the records available at the NCAA DATR on the 5% TSC for the international and domestic airlines ticket sales alone especially from January to December 2016 which was N15.1bn in naira and $23.5m in dollar or a total of N23.3bn in naira. If N23.3bn was the recorded 5% TSC on the ticket sales alone in 2016 by the NCAA DATR, the Ticket Sales Earnings therefore cannot be N330bn as presented by the NCAA at the February 2017 conference but N466bn; a difference of N136bn.”

“At the same 2017 Press Conference, the NCAA recorded passengers traffic figures of 11.4m and `11.3m for 2015& 2016 respectively are also misleading when taken against the figures of 15.2m and 14.2m recorded respectively for the same periods by FAAN “the -passengers’ -gate – keeper” at all the national airports. The NCAA also recorded 3,272,331 for each of the same years, for international passengers while the FAAN figures were 4.30m and 4.20m respectively. ”

“Similarly, for the same period, the NCAA domestic passengers’ traffic figures were 8.1m and 8.0m respectively, while FAAN recorded 10.2m and 10.9m respectively for the same period.”

“The huge difference of over 4m between FAAN and NCAA on the overall passengers figure for each of the two years and in particular the difference of over 1m in the international passengers figure are gaps of holes that made the NCAA recorded Airlines Ticket Sales earnings of N385bn and N330bn for 2015 and 2016 misleading and questionable. ”

He further pointed out that the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agents (NANTA) Air Tickets Sales earnings of N504bn in 2017 came at a time when the international outbound passengers and the domestic passengers as recorded by FAAN and NCAA Consumer Protection Unit (CPU) were 1,825,358 and 3,865,494 respectively; a decline of about 26% from the NCAA figures of 2015 and 2016.

“Relatively too, if we assume this same percentage decline in ticket sales, the earnings would have been N 681bn; still more than twice the figure of N 330bn in 2016.”

Ojikutu recommended that there is need for the five shareholders of the TSC/CSC to regularly meet, if they are not doing so now to evaluate and assess the TSC, CSC and other earnings before the sharing.

He said,”These entities should jointly or individually assess the gross earnings from the Airline Ticket Sales (both International and Domestic), Cargo Freight Sales (International and Domestic) Chartered Air Charges, Excess Baggage Charges etc; determine in particular, the percentage contribution, each of the Domestic and Foreign Airlines to the Tickets and Cargo Sales Earnings from 2015-2017; determine the 5% TSC and CSC due each, to NCAA and the 4 other shareholders viz NAMA, AIB, NCAT, NIMET.”

NCAA reacts, says there is no discrepancy in figures it churns out

NIGERIAN Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has said that it stands by its figures and said statistical data emanating from it is authentic and has an automated system that is reliable.

This is just as the regulator advised the public and all aviation stakeholders to disregard what it described as misguided attempt to discredit statistical data emanating from the Authority.

Few days ago, an aviation stakeholder and scribe of the Aviation round Table (ART), Group Captain John Ojikutu called on government to probe the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA’s) 5% earning on the Passengers’ Tickets and Cargo Sales Charges (TSC &CSC) respectively following contradicting figures thrown around by various agencies.

The NCAA in a reaction signed by General Manager Public Relations, Sam Adurogboye today said, “We wish to state that NCAA stands by its statistics. The figures are verifiable and are harmonised by all relevant aviation parastatals, government agencies and handling companies.”

“It is therefore important for the public to be aware that there is a disparity between NCAA’s data collection basis and FAAN’s. In addition, 5% Ticket Sales Charge (TSC) is not based on the total tickets sold but only on flown tickets.”

Clarifying further the CAA said,”On the other hand, FAAN computes its Passenger Service Charge (PSC) on all categories of passengers flying through the airport.

Furthermore, 5% TSC applies to all tickets originating from Nigeria with the exclusion of Diplomats, Tickets sold offshore, infants tickets and staff tickets. These are all classified as non-taxable tickets.”

“Please note that tickets sold by National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) and Airlines do not translate to taxable tickets until it is utilised by the passenger.”

The Authority further discredited the statement that there are consultant(s) commissioned to collect its revenue on its behalf categorically stating that payments have since been automated while the processing and data analysis for both international and domestic airlines are handled by NCAA staff.

“The Automation process is a transparent system that obtains billable data directly from the reservation system of the airlines.

On the international route, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is responsible for billing and collection of revenue which is remitted into NCAA TSA account.”

“This is the global practice as charged by member states (airlines) to ensure coherent fare structure to prevent exploitative and monopolistic tendencies of the airlines.”

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in conclusion assured Nigerians that its statistical data undergoes due diligence and the integrity can be ascertained before it is published.

Source: independent.ng, nigerianflightdeck.com

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