The Nigerian Ministry of Aviation says it is “working hard” to release pending funds to Emirates airline after the airline suspended flights to Nigeria from next month.
Emirates announced in a statement on Thursday that it has halted flight operations in and out of Nigeria due to its inability to repatriate funds from the West African country.
The airline said “no progress” has been made in reaching Nigerian authorities for a solution.
“Emirates have made every effort to address our ongoing challenges in repatriating funds from Nigeria and have made significant efforts to initiate a dialogue with the relevant authorities for their urgent intervention to help find a viable solution . It is regrettable that no progress has been made,” Emirates said in a statement.
The decision comes after Emirates announced last month that it would be cutting flights to Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos. The stalled funds rose by more than $10 million each month, the airline said in a letter to Nigerian Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika.
Sirika told DailyExpertNews the pending funds will be released as this was not the first time Nigeria has been holding huge amounts of revenue that belonged to foreign airlines.
“In the past, Nigeria has shown the ability, willingness and honesty to solve these kinds of problems. It happened when we took power in 2015: there were a lot of blocked funds, about $600 million at the time. It was at a time when the country was in recession and dwindling revenues were coming to the country, but we fulfilled our obligation to pay out all those blocked funds,” Sirika told DailyExpertNews on Thursday.
“Unfortunately, due to many factors and reasons, funds piled up again. The government is working hard to ensure that these funds are released, not just to Emirates, but to all airlines involved,” Sirika added.
Sirika added that “mechanisms will be put in place to ensure this does not happen in the future.”
The minister did not elaborate on the factors, although Nigeria is struggling with foreign exchange shortages, limiting access to foreign currency for imports.
Earlier in June, the International Air Transport Association said Nigeria is holding $450 million in revenue from foreign airlines operating in the country.
The local currency has been in free fall against the dollar, with most of the foreign exchange coming from crude oil sales, which have declined due to oil theft in producing communities. The government is also burdened by the high costs of subsidizing fuel for local consumption.
Nigeria is one of Africa’s largest markets for international carriers.