Federal Government of Nigeria has made it clear to foreign airlines operating from the country that they will not be allowed to sell their tickets in dollars, stressing that dollar is not the legal tender in Nigeria but the Naira.
Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who spoke to news men today, September 7, shortly after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Presidential villa, Abuja, said that the federal government will sanction foreign airlines that are selling air tickets to Nigerians in dollars.
Hadi Sirika warned the airlines to desist from writing sensitive issues on their social media accounts, coming on the heels of recent developments in the Nigerian aviation sector where foreign airlines like Turkish Airlines and British Airways began to sell their tickets in dollars.
In July, the International Air Transport Association said foreign airlines have $465m of un-repatriated revenue trapped with the Central Bank of Nigeria. But the Central Bank recently release the sum of $465 million for the settlement of the un-repatriate airline revenue from sales of tickets. Consequently, Emirates Airline had threatened to withdraw operations in Nigeria from September over $85m trapped revenue, but relaxed its plans after the CBN released $265m to the foreign airlines.
Turkish Airlines said it will charge the highest fare for economy and business class tickets. The Minister said, “Reports are reaching us that some of the airlines are refusing to sell tickets in Naira. That is a violation of our local laws, they will not be allowed. The high and the mighty amongst them will be sanctioned, if they’re caught doing that. “NCAA has been directed to swing into action and once we find any airline violating this, we will definitely deal with them. Also, they blocked the travel agents from access. They also made only the expensive tickets available and so on and so forth. “Our regulators are not sleeping; we have a very vibrant Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority. Once they find any airline guilty, that airline will be dealt with because we need to protect our people. It is according to our agreements, to what we have signed and this is according to international convention.
“So, going forward, they should desist from doing things that are outside of the law. They should also desist from writing to us and putting things in social media. They should go through diplomatic channels if they want a response from the federal government.” The minister also revealed how foreign airlines made over $1.1bn from Nigeria in 2016. He said during the period, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration cleared the $600m inherited from the Goodluck Jonathan government.
He reiterated that the CBN has released $265m out of $484m un-repatriated revenue belonging to them. The Minister further revealed that Nigeria has signed a Bilateral Air Service Agreement with the State of Kuwait.
“Today we had two memoranda in front of Council, both of which have been approved graciously by council. Memo number one is to do the Bilateral Air Service Agreement between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the State of Kuwait. That memorandum has been approved that we should sign the Bilateral Air Service Agreement with the State of Kuwait.
“And of course, this is in line with the provisions of the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s requirements in line with the convention of December 7, 1944, to which both countries are signatories. It provides reciprocal rights and privileges for both countries and airlines therefrom.”