CBN releases $265million after backlash to aviation industry to settle foreign airlines

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The Central Bank of Nigeria has released $265million to airlines operating in the country to settle outstanding ticket sales to check a brewing crisis in the country’s aviation sector. Disclosing this in a statement, on Friday, the Director, Corporate Communications Department, CBN, Mr Osita Nwanisobi, said the Nigerian government was concerned about the development and what it portended for the sector and travellers as well as the country in the comity of nations. A breakdown of the figure indicated that $230million was released as special foreign exchange intervention while another $35million was released through Retail SMIS auction. Nwanisobi retiterated 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,” CBN said.

There has been serious concerns and reactions over hundreds of millions of dollars earned by foreign airlines operating in the country which they could not repatriate due to foreign exchange scarcity problems. Easterner had during the week reported that some international airlines whose $600million got stuck in Nigeria’s Central Bank were not happy with the carefree attitude shown by the Nigerian administration. Some of the foreign nations had said they gave between now and December — the deadline when the Nigerian government should pay the accrued debt or risk having them leave the nation.

Easterner earlier reported that Emirates Airlines had announced that it would suspend its flights to Nigeria from September 1 this year. The proposed suspension of flights to Nigeria is connected to its failure to repatriate its trapped ticket sales fund in the West African country back to its home country in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Meanwhile, the foreign nations’ ultimate intervention has been linked to the CBN’s refusal to release the trapped monies for the airlines to return to their home countries in violation of the deal they signed with Nigeria as outlined in the current Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs). This is just as the seeming silence of the various local bankers of the foreign airlines in Nigeria has been attributed to the fact that it is only the CBN that is empowered to do this.

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