The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has said that by October 31, another batch of $120 million will be released to foreign airlines whose funds were trapped in the country.
The amount is part of the remaining trapped funds of the foreign carriers operating in Nigeria, and that brings the total amount disbursed so far to $435million.
The CBN did not however hide its anger over what it called foreign airlines resorting to “blackmail” against the country, especially as they fly as many as 21 frequencies into the country without reciprocity from Nigeria, thereby disregarding the Bilateral Aviation Services Agreement (BASA).
The apex bank’s Governor, Godwin Emefiele, made the move to release the $120 million of trapped funds known, at a meeting with the leadership of the House of Representatives, the International Air Transportation Association (IATA), Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON), and representatives of the federal government, including the minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika.
The representative of IATA, Samson Fatokun, who was at the meeting, made a submission that about $700 million of foreign airlines’ cash are still trapped despite the earlier intervention of the CBN.
He said that the CBN should provide a timeline of how the funds are to be repatriated to assure the international airline operators.
“What we have right now is $700 million – our balance is $700 million”, Fatokun said.
The CBN governor however said that the apex bank has been working to enable international airlines to repatriate their funds, hence, the resolve in August to release $265 million to them, and that the money has been disbursed in bits with $120 million set to be due on October 31.
“Everyone is calling on CBN to release blocked funds, and I am doing everything I can to provide dollars for you to repatriate your money.
“We used our discretion to allocate $265 million to the foreign airlines, broken down into spot and forward. We did $110 million on the spot and the rest in 60 days forward. On that day, we allocated to IATA $32 million through UBA; Qatar Airways, $22.8 million through Standard Chartered; Emirates, $19.6 million through Access Bank; British Airway, $5.5 million through GTB; Virgin Atlantic, $4.8 million through Zenith and others.
“How then can they go about and begin to say that they have not received money? This is an extra allocation. This is something I have told you (foreign airlines) that we will continue to do so that you will not blackmail the country. $120 million will be due on the 31 of October.”
Emefiele said that it was unacceptable for foreign airlines to resort to “blackmail” against the country because of their trapped funds. The apex bank governor said foreign airlines should respect the bilateral aviation services agreement (BASA), as it would tackle the problem of unrepatriated funds.
“When you allow Nigerian airlines to fly in your country, what the airlines will do is charge naira as we expect foreign airlines to charge. You cannot be flying 21 flights into Nigeria and you do not allow Nigerian airlines to land in your country and when they land, you intimidate them with sniffer dogs and do not allow them to carry out maintenance checks.”
Source: The Will.