Dubai-based Emirates Airlines has suspended operations into Nigeria indefinitely owing to its trapped funds.
According to a statement by the airline on Thursday and obtained by our correspondent, the airline had no option than to suspend flights to and from Nigeria to mitigate against further losses going forward.
The statement read in part, “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.
“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.”
Emirates stated that this new decision became necessary as it had attended multiple hearings with the Nigerian government and officially communicated its position.
The airline also made it known that it had made its proposed approach clear to alleviate this untenable situation, including a plan for the progressive release of funds, which included the repatriation and receipt of at least 80 per cent of its remaining blocked funds by the end of October 2022, in addition to providing a guaranteed mechanism to avoid future repatriation accumulation challenges and delays.
“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 travelers and businesses,” the airline said.
An attempt to book a flight from Abuja and Lagos on the Emirates portal proved abortive and yielded an automatic non-availability message as of the time of filling this report.
Meanwhile, in a telephone interview with media source, the president, Association of Foreign Airlines and Representatives in Nigeria, Kingsley Nwokoma, said that other airlines were most likely to follow in the steps of Emirates.
He said, “Tickets are being sold every minute. That means there’ll be more funds stuck here so even if the Federal Government says they’re releasing XYZ amount, the problem has not been solved. The solution is for all parties to sit and deliberate on how these monies would be paid. Apparently, no airline will want to keep running at a loss because they are not even sure of the next day.
“Check the IATA figures. Yes, some other countries owe but not as much as Nigeria, and the airlines need this money to function. There’s a likelihood that other airlines might follow in the steps of Emirates if this is not properly diagonised.”