Trapped funds: CBN releases $265m to foreign airlines


Posted by Sade Williams


The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)  has released $265million to settle part of the funds that accrued from ticket sales by foreign airlines operating into the country.

In the last one week, the crisis of forex scarcity had rocked the aviation sector as foreign airlines had been unable to repatriate $464 million accrued from sales of tickets in the country.

On Friday, the Director, Corporate Communications Department, CBN, Osita Nwanisobi made it  known in a statement that .$265 million has been released to the airlines.

A breakdown of the figure by the apex bank indicated that $230m was released as special foreign exchange intervention while another $35m was released through Retail SMIS auction.

Nwanisobi said that the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele and his team were concerned about the development and what it portends for the sector and travellers as well as the country in the comity of nations.

He reiterated 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”, the CBN said.

Recalled that the situation had led to Emirates threatening to suspend operations into Nigeria by September as some others  was reported to have also threatened same if they were unable to repatriate their money.

The International Air Transportation Association (IATA) had also criticised Nigeria for failing to release the said sum to the airlines whenever they sold tickets, saying it was a ‘disappointment’ to see that Nigeria could  not meet its obligations as enshrined in the agreements.

Commenting on the new development on Friday, Group captain John Ojikutu (read) a former Lagos airport commandant said: “The FG has done the needful as a saving face from international condemnation. The money is owed the foreign airlines and our obligations to Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) and IATA. What has happened to this funds locked up in our country is not different from how the Nigeria Airways was excised out of IATA commercial exchange in the early 90s when it could not pay the monies owed to some airlines.

“Obligations in international commercial aviation are done or returned in dollars. These airlines pay our public and private services providers in dollars, why would they not take back home in dollars their sales in naira? It is also a vault face by those in government administration who can not account for the dollars earned in commercial aviation from these airlines.”, he said.