Expert laments plight of airlines, urges CBN to release trapped funds

A expert, a former Vice Chairman of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Segun Adewale, has urged the Federal Government to urgently repatriate the $600 million ticket revenue to foreign airlines operating in the country.

 Adewale, who is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of an aviation company, gave the charge in a statement he issued in Lagos at the weekend.

 It would be recalled that on Thursday, August 18, 2022, Emirates Airlines announced suspension of its flight operations in Nigeria as from September 1, 2022 over its inability to repatriate its funds from the country.

 International carriers operating in the country have constantly complained about their inability to repatriate funds to their home countries.

 Blocked funds belonging to the airlines have risen to about $600 million as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had not been able to make dollars available for the carriers to repatriate to their countries.

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 Adewale stated that the CBN blocked revenue from ticket sales, which accumulated since 2021 till July 2022, from being repatriated to airline operators through the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

 “Repatriation of revenues of tickets sold to travelers by airline operators to their home offices is CBN’s responsibility, but it has refused to release the equivalent in dollars for services rendered.

 “We have lost many airlines and jobs are being lost in the aviation sector and at our airports. The development is inimical to our economic wellbeing as a country. From the spiritual point of view, it is wrong to muzzle the ox that threads the corn,” Adewale stated.

 He decried that the blocked funds had already led to reduction of air connectivity and restriction of flights, lamenting that it was disheartening to know that the same foreign exchange (forex) being denied the airlines was being released to import non-essential products such as champagnes and tooth picks.

 “If foreign airlines suspend their flight operations, businesses will be shifted to neighbouring countries like Ghana, Benin Republic and Togo. The issue is so difficult for the operators, who now borrow forex from their home offices to fuel their aircraft.

 “With the increase in dollar rate leading to rise in the prices of flight tickets, especially en-route America and Dubai, which is now over N1 million, the environment is becoming too hostile for businesses to thrive,” he stated.

Adewale, therefore, appealed to the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, his Finance, Budget and National Planning counterpart, Zainab Ahmed, as well as the CBN to do the needful and ensure availability and release of the funds.

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