Nigeria Blocks Repatriation of $191m Foreign Airlines’ Funds in 2023
By Umar Suleiman
Less than three months into 2023, Foreign airlines operating in Nigeria have had up to $191 of their funds trapped in the country from being repatriated.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) Tuesday disclosed that with the development, the total amount of trapped funds belonging to the foreign airlines currently stands at $734,721,097, higher than the $662 million it was in January 2023.
IATA disclosed this in a letter addressed to the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika and signed by the Area Manager West and Central Africa, Dr. Samson Fatokun.
According to the letter, IATA and the global airline community was seeking an intervention from the Minister for the resolution of airlines blocked funds issues in Nigeria.
“For over a year, Nigeria has been the country with the highest amount of airline-blocked funds in the world. Moreover, as of January 2023, airlines’ blocked funds in Nigeria have increased to $734.721.092 from $662m in January 2023 and $549m in December 2022,” the letter stated.
It was also confirmed from the Geneva-based IATA that the stated amount was still trapped in Nigeria as at the end of January 2023.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Sirika, confirmed a meeting with IATA and foreign airline operators to discuss the salient issues affecting the organisations and the country.
In a statement signed by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Affairs, Ministry of Aviation, Odutayo Oluseyi, the Minister assured IATA and foreign airline operators that the aviation Ministry was concerned and would do its best to resolve the matter of blocked funds as soon as possible.
He stated further that the issue of blocked funds sits with the Central Bank of Nigeria and not what the Ministry could handle alone; “otherwise, it would have been resolved immediately.”
He urged the international airline operators to be very considerate when dealing with the issue bearing in mind the effects of Covid-19 and recession the country had experienced.
Speaking earlier, Fatokun who led the delegation expressed gratitude to the Minister for his continuous support for the growth of air transport in Nigeria and for the actualization of his role as catalyst for the growth of the Nigerian economy.
He said the global airline community would like to appeal to the Minister for special intervention in resolving of airline blocked funds issues in Nigeria, adding that the airlines are facing the collateral damage and the average Nigeria is bearing the brunt of this issue.
President National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Susan Akporiaye, in her reaction noted, “It is a very difficult time for us as some of us are already giving up on the industry and going into other businesses.
“It is our loss and also the loss of the country as we don’t sell more ticket like we used to, and this will further increase the unemployment situation if this issue is not attended to.’’
Since last year when Nigeria failed to remit all the trapped funds to the international carriers, most of the airlines have removed their low inventory (fares) for travellers who wish to pay for tickets in Naira and this low inventory could only be paid for in dollars.
So, Nigerians buy economy ticket at over N2 million during high season and could be charged up to a N1 million for date change in the ticket.
The indication is that Nigerian travellers inexorably would have to pay in dollars for low fares so that airlines would reduce their trapped funds in Nigeria, as they would have to sell fewer tickets in naira.
Forex Scarcity: $450m Ticket Revenue of Foreign Airlines Trapped in Nigeria