Foreign airlines heaved a sigh of relief following the decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to clear outstanding matured FX forwards in banks.
Many of the foreign airlines said they were unaware of how much of the money owed them that the apex Bank would be releasing to the carriers just as many of the airlines had been contacted but yet to know the modalities to be adopted by the CBN to defray the debt.
A top official of a foreign airline who confirmed payment of outstanding matured foreign Exchange to the carriers which had been bided for before cessation of repatriated funds said that the carriers still had a huge amount of money with commercial banks, stressing that the Banks were yet to inform them when they would get their monies.
The source disclosed that the funds with the commercial banks were those traded at the Investors & Exporters FX window I&E FX Window) that were yet to be made available to the airlines.
The Investors & Exporters FX window (I&E FX Window) is the market trading segment for investors, exporters, and End Users that allows for FX trades to be made at market-determined exchange rates.
“Yes, it is true that the payment the CBN is doing is the Forex that the airlines bided for is the one they are offsetting. We still have a lot of with the commercial banks; the one that they traded at the I&E FX Window is still there with the banks.”
A top official of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) who spoke on condition of anonymity said it is not certain how much the apex is releasing to the carriers, stating that the entire picture would be clear by next week Monday.
Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Mr. Festus Keyamo in September during an aviation summit gave the assurance that the federal government would see to it that trapped funds of foreign airlines are released to them very soon.
According to him, the government was doing everything possible to ensure the funds were repatriated to the affected airlines.
As at May 2023, the total trapped funds of foreign airlines in the country was over $500 million and at least two foreign airlines had ceased operations in Nigeria because of the debts, while a few others had to reduce the frequency of flights into the country.
Keyamo said President Bola Tinubu was concerned about the trapped funds and it was one of the reasons he (Tinubu) visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE), recently.
“I spoke with the Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and he has given an indication that within the next few weeks, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will be very clear as to the programme within which these issues will be addressed.
“They will be paid off, these are not loans, they are trapped funds; they are funds that are there, it is only the issue of liquidity that is our problem. And the issue of liquidity is being addressed as I speak right now. It is something that the President is very concerned about, and that issue, I said that we have addressed it in the UAE, and very soon, you will hear from the financial sector,” he said.