The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has released the sum of N108bn ($265 million ) to foreign airlines that threatened to stop operations in Nigeria over trapped funds.
An estimation of the figure revealed that the sum of $230 million was released as special FX intervention while another sum of $35 million was released through Retail SMIS auction.
This was affirmed by the Director, Corporate Communications Department at the CBN, Mr. Osita Nwanisobi, on Friday, August 26, 2022.
According to him, the Governor, Godwin Emefiele and his associates were concerned about the development and what it signifies for the sector and travellers as well as the country in the comity of nations.
Mr. Nwanisobi emphasized that the Bank was not against any company restoring its funds from the country, noting that what the Bank stood for was an orderly exit for those that might have interest in doing so.
Foreign airline operators have in recent years raised concern over the inability to restore “trapped” funds and have been begging the Nigerian government through the Central Bank to release same to no avail.
The situation got worse last week when Emirates Airline disclosed that it will suspend all flights to Nigeria from September 1.
Meanwhile the Airline Operators of Nigeria had debated on Wednesday, that there were no trapped funds and the foreign airlines can restore their money without recourse to the CBN.
Speaking on the Morning Show, Prof Obiora Okonkwo, the association’s Spokesperson and Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, emphasized that it is wrong to claim that the CBN seized the funds of foreign airlines and stressed that it amounts to blackmail to frame it that way.
He noted that international airlines have the decision to remove money from Nigeria by procuring foreign exchange at the parallel market, since they price their tickets using those same rates, but have decided not to do so.
He also said that the ultimatum given by foreign airlines to withdraw from the Nigerian market is disrespectful to the Nigerian government and Nigerians in general, especially because the Nigerian route is lucrative to these airlines.
Okonkwo stated that Nigerian airlines are functioning under the same conditions and would also be expecting a CBN intervention if the foreign airlines get a forex injection.