Release Trapped $464m Airlines Revenue Or Risk More Damage To Nigeria’s Economy, IATA Warns FG

The International Air Transport Association and local aviation union chiefs are warning of the impending damage that the country’s aviation sector will face if the trapped $464m of foreign carriers is not released.

The warning is due to the revolt by some foreign airlines who have either announced suspension of operation in the country or began to request for payment of airfares in US dollars.

Emirates Airlines that is owed $85m was the first to announce suspension of operation from September, while Turkish Air has begun to charge the highest fares for both economy class and business class.

Turkish Airlines and British Airways have begun charging for tickets in US dollars.

IATA said on Twitter that it “is disappointed that the amount of airline money blocked from repatriation by the #Nigerian government grew to $464m in July.

“IATA’s many warnings that failure to restore timely repatriation will hurt Nigeria with reduced air connectivity are proving true with the withdrawal of @emirates from the market.

“Airlines can’t be expected to fly if they can’t realize revenue from ticket sales. Loss of connectivity harms the economy, hurts investor confidence, impacts jobs and people’s lives. The Government of Nigeria needs to prioritize the release of funds before more damage is done.”

Alex Nwuba, President, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Nigeria in his reaction to the twist of event blamed the Nigerian government for failing to honour the agreement reached between it and foreign airlines.

Nwuba explained on Arise Tv on Friday that, “As Emirates operates in Nigeria so does Air Peace to the UAE. Can you manage the challenges economically we are facing in this country and the challenges that are being faced by the airlines itself if it sold tickets to go to the UAE and come back for Nigerians to benefit from that process and then can’t get that money on top of the high interest rate it has to pay for money.

“Emirates have operated and sold tickets in naira as mandated by the government. They had the option of collecting in dollars and just transfer the funds directly from their accounts, but they have earned revenue in naira and they said (they) want to take their money.”

He admitted that Nigeria is facing severe foreign exchange challenges, but argues that it “does not exempt us from our obligations to transfer these funds when they are requested by the companies that earned them.”

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