Africa: Central Bank Nigeria releases $265 million foreign airlines’ trapped funds, as NANTA denies BA exit story

Bank

In a move to check a brewing crisis in the country’s aviation sector, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Friday, August 26, 2022, released the sum of $265 million to airlines operating in the country, to settle outstanding ticket sales.

The fund released by the apex bank is coming on the heels of a threat by foreign airlines to stop operations into the country.

Middle East Carrier, Emirates Airlines has hinted that the airline will cease flying into Nigeria from September 1st, while the United Kingdom carrier, British Airways had given the government December deadline following which if nothing is done it will stop operating into the country.

A breakdown of the figure indicates that the sum of $230 million was released as special FX intervention while another sum of $35 million was released through Retail SMIS auction.

Confirming the release, the Director, Corporate Communications Department at the CBN, Mr. Osita Nwanisobi said the Governor, Godwin Emefiele and his team were concerned about the development and what it portends for the sector and travelers as well as the country in the comity of nations.

Mr. Nwanisobi retiterated that the Bank was not against any company repatriating its funds from the country, adding that what the Bank stood for was an orderly exit for those that might be interested in doing so.

With Friday’s release, it is expected that operators and travelers as well will heave huge sighs of relief, as some airlines had threatened to withdraw their services in the face of unremitted funds for outstanding sale of tickets.

In a related development, the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) has debunked the news making the rounds in some online platforms and media houses which was credited to the agency that the United Kingdom Carrier, British Airways has given the government December deadline to suspend its operation into the country.

READ: Africa: Release $464m Trapped Funds to Foreign Airlines, IATA And Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative ART advises Nigeria

The agency said: “The news story carried by some online news platforms and other media houses that British Airways plans to withdraw services from the Nigerian route and credited to the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) is totally false.

A statement signed by the body’s Public Relations Officer said:
“NANTA never said that British Airways gave a deadline and will stop flying to Nigeria. NANTA never issued a press statement to that effect. It is not in the purview of NANTA to issue such statement.

“The National Executive Council of NANTA went into a business meeting with British Airways, where British Airways conveyed assurance that it remains committed to servicing the needs of travel agencies in Nigeria.

“NANTA as partners to all the airlines in Nigeria has taken it as a responsibility to visit the carriers to empathise with them concerning their trapped funds and to re-affirm our commitment as trade partners.

“Aside Emirates Airlines that has made withdrawal notice public, no other airline has announced or expressed the desire to stop flying to Nigeria as far as we know.”

Earlier, the media was agog with the news allegedly from the agency that BA had given the government till December to resolve the trapped funds issue after which it will cease operating to Nigeria. News also had it that the airline resolved to sell it air tickets in dollars to Nigerian air travellers.

The news earlier circulated in the media reads: “The National Executive Council of NANTA just concluded a business meeting with British Airways and British Airways conveys assurance that it remains committed to servicing the needs of travel agencies in Nigeria.

“As members may be aware that British Airways closed inventory this morning, please be informed that, this inventory closure is a necessary action taken by British Airways to mitigate increase of their trapped funds.

“However, British Airways provides reassurance that it is still flying in and out of Nigeria and is currently seeking earnest solutions to address the demands of its customers.

NANTA in a follow-up communication to clients said: “The above message is the new development with regards to British airways. Tickets will be issued in USD henceforth and only online.

“They have also given the Nigerian government a deadline in December. By which time if payment isn’t made, they will stop all flights into and out of Nigeria.

“Please do not pay for or issue tickets beyond December. We will update you as soon as we receive any new developments.

 

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