As the crisis surrounding access to foreign exchange exacerbates, foreign airlines operating in Nigeria have in excess $575 million, as at the end of March 2016, stocked at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has revealed.
Mr Hussein Dabbas, the regional vice president, Africa and the Middle-East, AITA, who disclosed this during the Aviation Day AITA conference holding in Abuja, said that the figure was the biggest in Africa.
The CBN in the past had said that it met the forex demands of the airlines.
As the forex controls at the CBN lingered, some foreign airlines have resorted to selling tickets in dollars or moved their ticketing operations to neighbouring countries to reduce the naira piles.
Some international airlines used to sell their tickets in naira and then approach the CBN for the dollar equivalent to repatriate to their home country.
AITA said that case of blocked fund was not peculiar to Nigeria, adding that it was working with the Nigerian government to unlock the blocked fund.
It said: “There are several countries that have blocked funds issues starting with Venezuela.
Venezuela has over $3.5bn blocked funds for airlines. Nigeria also is a big country and we have $575 million stock as at the end of March 2016. Egypt has over $250 million. Sudan also has a couple $100 million and so on.”
Speaking, Dr Samson Fatokun, the area manager, South West Africa, IATA, said: “On the blocked funds, we are engaging government at all levels. We are working with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the ministry of aviation, as well as the office of the vice president. We had meeting with the vice president a month ago and the outcome is encouraging. Government is giving aviation the highest possible attention that this matter deserves.”
Meanwhile, declaring the conference open, the minister of aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, unveiled the list of potential private sector investment areas.
The minister, who was represented by a permanent secretary in the federal ministry of transportation, Alhaji Sabi’u Zakari, said Nigerian aviation was the next destination to invest, adding that the sector guaranteed high return on investments.