Tayo Busayo, Abuja


DAILY COURIER – 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.


This is just as the CBN says it is unacceptable for foreign airlines to resort 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).


Earlier, the apex bank had released $265million of funds belonging to foreign airlines, which got trapped in Nigeria due to the forex crisis the country is currently facing.


CBN Governor, Emefiele, disclosed their decision to release the $120 million of trapped funds owed to international airlines operating in the country during a meeting between 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 Hadi Sirika, minister of aviation.


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 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.


Commenting, the CBN governor however said 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,” he said.


“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 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,’’ Emefiele said.