By Olamilekan Okeowo
The inability to repatriate its trapped funds in Nigeria has forced Emirates Airlines, the flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to suspend both inbound and outbound Nigerian flight operations from October 29, 2022.
This is the second time that the airline will be suspending its operation in Nigeria following a similar suspension of operations in August 2022.
The airline in a statement disclosed that it has communicated its position to the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“Emirates has continued to actively seek a solution for the repatriation of the remainder of its blocked funds in Nigeria. We were encouraged by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s efforts of reviewing our request, and considered that this critical issue would be swiftly resolved with the subsequent clearance of our remaining funds,” the statement reads.
“However, Emirates has yet to receive an allocation of our blocked funds to be repatriated. Without the timely repatriation of the funds and a mechanism in place to ensure that future repatriation of Emirates’ funds do not accumulate in any way, the backlog will continue to grow, and we simply cannot meet our operational costs nor maintain the commercial viability of our operations in Nigeria.
“We have officially communicated our position and attended multiple hearings with the Nigerian government, and we have made our proposed approach clear to alleviate this untenable situation, including a plan for the progressive release of our funds. This included the repatriation and receipt of at least 80 percent of our remaining blocked funds by the end of October 2022, in addition to providing a guaranteed mechanism to avoid future repatriation accumulation challenges and delays.
“Under these extraordinary circumstances Emirates had no option but to suspend flights to/from Nigeria from 29 October 2022 to mitigate against further losses moving forward.
“We hope to reach a mutual resolution with the Nigerian government around the repatriation of blocked funds to enable the resumption of operations and connectivity for travellers and businesses.”
It would be recalled that Emirates had in August suspended flights to Nigeria over its $85 million blocked revenue. In August, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said foreign airlines have not been unable to repatriate $464 million from Nigeria.
Foreign airlines in the country have been struggling to repatriate their earnings due to Nigeria’s foreign exchange crisis.
To mitigate the challenges, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) after several meetings with stakeholders released $265 million to airlines operating in the country to settle outstanding ticket sales with a promise of a further release of $120m by the end of October.
By Olamilekan Okeowo