Again, Emirates Airline suspends flight operations to Nigeria over trapped funds

Our reporter| Emirates Airline for the second time this year has suspended flight operations to Nigeria over its inability to repatriate funds trapped in the country.

According to a statement by the airline on Thursday, the suspension took effect from October, 29 2022.

Foreign airlines have been struggling to repatriate their earnings of more than $500 million and the federal government earlier this year released $265 million to airlines to settle outstanding ticket sales.

After several engagements with stakeholders, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) promised to release another $120 million to the international carriers to offset part of the trapped funds by the end of October.

But, in the statement, Emirates, the flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), disclosed that despite promises of allocation by CBN, nothing has been done.

“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.

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“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.

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“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.”

Nigeria’s minister of aviation, Hadi Sirika, last week warned that the country will not succumb to threats by foreign airlines to shut down operations in Nigeria.

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