Fuel marketers and officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria clashed at the Abuja airport on Thursday over alleged increase of apron access fee by 100 per cent.
FAAN barred fuel marketers from accessing the apron of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, to discharge aviation fuel into waiting airplanes.
The situation, which lingered for several hours, led to the grounding of several planes while many passengers became stranded.
Officials told The PUNCH that FAAN officials denied fuel vendors access to the apron, leaving several aircraft to be grounded.
FAAN said fuel marketers were denied access to the Abuja airport apron because their apron passes had expired.
When contacted, the Acting General Manager, Public Affairs, FAAN, Faithful Hope-Ivbaze, said the apron passes of the fuel marketers had expired.
She said,” You believe that FAAN will not give notice for an increase because FAAN is a jungle organisation? It is N150,000-N200,000 is what an oil marketer cannot pay?
“The truth of the matter is that their apron pass expired, apron passes have duration. They know that the apron passes will expire and time was given to them to pay and they did not pay so what do you do? The aviation industry as you know is highly regulated and we cannot just fold our arms and let things slide. If we do not collect revenue how do we maintain our facilities?
“So when the government is saying generate revenue to maintain your facilities and then people, concessionaires and customers owe us, don’t we have the right to our money?
Also, the Regional General Manager, North Central, FAAN, Kabiru Mohammed, also said FAAN refused to give the oil marketers access because their apron access had expired.
Mohammed, however, said a temporary access was later granted to the oil marketers to fuel aircraft on ground for three hours.
According to him, the marketers will be barred from the apron later if they fail to make payment and renew their apron access pass.
Reacting to the allegation that the process of acquitting the apron access was long, Mohammed said, “Look, it’s not difficult. Once they pay and show evidence of payment they will be allowed in, the process is on FAAN, let us worry about the process while you do your business, we will be working that out.
“It’s just blackmail, they waited for the eve of the holidays before they decided to take this stand but the reality is if they said it was the process what happened to the leeway we extended so they can pay and we allow them in while sorting out the processes?