The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the clearing house for over 200 international airlines said it would continue to engage the Nigerian government with a view to expediting the release of the remaining amount so that airlines can afford to serve Nigeria and other African countries where their funds are trapped.
Nigeria is among countries in Africa that are keeping airlines’ funds. Other countries keeping airlines’ funds are Zimbabwe ($100 million), Algeria ($96 million), Eritrea ($79 million), and Ethiopia ($75 million).
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) last week bowed to both internal and external pressure as the country’s apex Bank released the sum of $265 million out of the total $464 million trapped funds to the carriers.
This may have made Emirates Airlines rescind its decision to stop flights to Nigeria from Sept 1, 2022, over $85 million of its funds stuck in the country.
The carrier in a statement said it had tried every avenue to address its ongoing challenges in repatriating funds from Nigeria and had made considerable efforts to initiate dialogue with the relevant authorities for their urgent intervention to help find a viable solution.
“Regrettably there has been no progress. Therefore, Emirates has taken the difficult decision to suspend all flights to and from Nigeria, effective 1 September 2022, to limit further losses and impact on our operational costs that continue to accumulate in the market.
We sincerely regret the inconvenience caused to our customers, however, the circumstances are beyond our control at this stage. We will be working to help impacted customers make alternative travel arrangements wherever possible.
“Should there be any positive developments in the coming days regarding Emirates’ blocked funds in Nigeria, we will of course re-evaluate our decision. We remain keen to serve Nigeria, and our operations provide much-needed connectivity for Nigerian travelers, providing access to trade and tourism opportunities to Dubai, and to our broader network of over 130 destinations.”
IATA’s Regional Vice-President, Africa, and the Middle East, Kamil Alawadhi in a statement made available to Aviation Metric said IATA welcomed the Nigerian Government’s release of $265m of airlines’ blocked funds.
Alawahdi noted that even after this welcome and sizeable release, there would still be more than $200m of airlines funds blocked in Nigeria.
He noted that before the release of part of the fund, carriers were planning to stop flights to the country; a situation he noted would have disrupted connectivity, harming Nigeria’s economy and jobs.
His words, “IATA welcomes the Nigerian Government’s release of $265m of airlines’ blocked funds. We will continue to engage with it on expediting the release of the remaining amount so that airlines can continue providing the connectivity Nigeria requires without disrupting and harming its economy and jobs”.
He encouraged other countries, in Africa and elsewhere, that are blocking the repatriation of foreign airlines’ funds, to follow Nigeria’s example and release the money they are withholding.
According to him, without it, airlines cannot afford to serve those countries. He added that this would be detrimental to the people and businesses that depend on the market connectivity those airlines provide.
“IATA speaks and leads the industry on matters of common interest. While IATA cannot speak for individual airlines, we hope the release of blocked funds with assurances and safeguards to prevent a recurrence, will persuade affected carriers to continue serving Nigeria,” he added.