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Foreign airlines dispute CBN’s claim of settled FX backlog - BUSINESSDAY

MARCH 21, 2024

Against claims by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that it has successfully settled all outstanding foreign exchange (FX) obligations, foreign airlines says the status quo remains the same.

Kingsley Nwokeoma, President, Association of Foreign Airlines and Representatives in Nigeria, (AFARN) told BusinessDay that as far as he is concerned, nothing has changed as regards clearing foreign airlines’ trapped funds.

“If they say they have cleared the trapped funds, they should show us figures. They should tell us how much have been cleared. The last I checked, the status quo still remains the same,” Nwokeoma said.

Hakama Sidi Ali, acting director of corporate communications at CBN, on Wednesday disclosed in a statement that the financial regulator recently concluded the payment of $1.5 billion to settle obligations to bank customers, effectively settling the residual balance of the FX backlog.

But Bankole Bernard, chairman of Airlines and Passengers’ Joint Committee (APJC) of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) told BusinessDay that CBN’s claim is true, adding that the airlines’ trapped funds have been cleared.

According to him, the foreign airlines have been offered the option to get their funds from the banks using the rate of the I & E window but have refused because the current I &E window rate is not the same they used to sell tickets.

Bernard said the airlines would be making losses if they collect the money using the I & E window, that is why they stopped selling low inventory tickets and are selling only very high fares in order to recover their monies that have been lost as result of the current exchange rate.

When asked why Emirates is yet to resume flight operations in Nigeria, he said “Emirates cannot resume flight operations because of the diplomatic row they have with Nigeria. The rich and powerful still find their way to Dubai.

“The crimes Nigerians are committing in Dubai has made them refuse Nigerians from coming to Dubai. These crimes affect tourism. They do not want their country to be perceived as unsafe. Emirates still has their office in Nigeria and they have staff they are paying salaries,” he said.

Last year, International Air Transport Association (IATA) disclosed that Nigeria owes $812.2 million out of $2.27 billion trapped funds, making it the country with the highest trapped funds globally.

The top five countries that account for 68.0 percent of blocked funds include Nigeria ($812.2 million), Bangladesh ($214.1 million), Algeria ($196.3 million), Pakistan ($188.2 million) and Lebanon ($141.2 million).


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