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By NBF News

The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency on Wednesday grounded Arik Air over its failure to pay terminal navigational charges.

The grounding of Arik followed an earlier warning that the agency would refuse aircraft clearance to any domestic airline that failed to comply with the pay-as-you-go system, a new mode of payment for terminal navigational charges introduced by NAMA.

NAMA had introduced the new mode of payment to force reluctant domestic airlines to pay the charges.

Airlines are said to be indebted to the airspace agency to the tune of over N4bn, a development that NAMA said was affecting its ability to provide efficient services to the airlines.

NAMA grounded all of Arik's local and international flights on Wednesday except London route.

The agency, in a statement, gave clearance to only Arik's flights to London because it quickly paid the sum of $25,000, an amount the agency said could only take the carrier for six flights on the route.

The new mode of payment requires airlines to file in their flight schedule, get billed, and then effect payment before navigational services are rendered.

Almost all the domestic airlines have complied with the new mode of payment except Arik, which insisted that payment of the navigational charges on domestic routes was wrong.

But other domestic airlines, including Aerocontractors, Dana Air, Air Nigeria , IRS Airlines, Associated Airlines and Overland Airways, paid the charges and were given clearance to operate their local and international flights.

Others that have paid up are OAS Helicopters, Bristow Helicopters and Mobil Aviation.

NAMA confirmed in a statement that all the airlines had complied except Arik.

However, as at 2pm on Wednesday, passengers were seen on queues collecting their refund at Arik's ticketing counter at the General Aviation Terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.

Arik was said to have threatened to ground local flights operations but the passengers made their way to other airlines and travelled.

Meanwhile, members of the Republic of Benin contingent to the ECOWAS games in Abuja, who were meant to be airlifted from Lagos to Abuja by Arik were left by the airline.

The team leader, who identified himself as Amadu Madjido, said the airline disappointed them.

However, he said that the officials of Arik were already making arrangements with another airline to convey them to Abuja. As at 4.30pm, the contingent was seen sitting in the sun at GAT, awaiting Arik officials' arrangement.

Arik, in a statement, later said that NAMA's action was unilateral and that the matter on navigational charges was in court.

But NAMA, in a swift reaction, said the issue in court with the Airline Operators of Nigeria had nothing to do with the charges.

NAMA also said that the decision on the charges had been jointly agreed to by the airlines in a meeting with the Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Fidelia Njeze in Abuja.