The International Air Transportation Association (IATA) has expressed disappointment over Nigeria’s inability to release the trapped funds of foreign airlines amounting to $464, forcing one of the carriers, Emirate Airlines to suspend it flight operations into Nigeria from 1 September 2022.
This is just as Nigeria’s professional group, the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ART) has called on the government and country’s apex, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to release the trapped funds to foreign airlines.
ART in a press release signed by its deputy General Secretary, Olumide Ohunayo, said the body is dismayed by the appalling handling of the accumulated foreign airline funds trapped in “our banks, due to the non-allocation of forex to these airlines.”
He said in all Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA), an Article in the agreement – transfer of earnings, clearly states that “each designated airline shall have the right to convert and remit to its country on demand, local revenues in excess of sums locally disbursed. Conversion and remittance shall be permitted without delay in accordance with the prevailing foreign exchange regulations”.
Olumide stated that international trade is binded by agreements which are sacrosanct and respected adding that Nigeria cannot do otherwise if we crave the attention of investors in our industry.
“It’s important to state that foreign airlines sold these tickets at the official IATA rate and cannot be expected to go the parallel market to source, convert and remit as opined in some quarters, the central bank should do the needful as enshrined in the BASA agreements.”
He said these funds should have been remitted at the official rate on date of sale immediately the Airlines get clearance after paying all the local obligations including taxes.
He added “The damage that our action has done to the Nigerian image as an investment friendly nation is far reaching, while the citizenry is faced with high fares, reduced capacity and limited travelling options, which will worsen if we continue on this trajectory.
“We found ourselves in this unenviable situation because we lack capacity to compete, which would have reduced the remittance volume.
“The unborn Air Nigeria cannot produce this capacity, irrespective of the funds allocated, but by an aggregated process of developing our industry to produce vibrant flag carriers that will be courted for commercial partnerships which is the purveyor for successful international flight operations.
“We are also of the opinion that to kick start this process, a functional and credible data gathering methodology for the industry is a necessity. We cannot continue to blow hot air without verifiable data.”
There are indications that more foreign airlines may in the coming days toe the line of Emirates airlines and suspend flight operation to Nigeria as trapped funds of foreign carriers amounting to $464 million dollars continue to rise.
Similarly, IATA in a series of tweets on Thursday stated that Nigeria’s position towards funds repatriation was disappointing.
According to nigerianflightdeck.com, “IATA is disappointed that the amount of airline money blocked from repatriation by the Nigerian government grew to $464 million in July,” it said.
“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 realise revenue from ticket sales. Loss of connectivity harms the economy, hurts investor confidence, impacts jobs and people’s lives.”
IATA, therefore, urged the government of Nigeria to prioritise the release funds “before more damage is done.”