The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has warned the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that some foreign airlines may be forced to quit the Nigerian markets if nothing is done about the $790m ticket revenue currently trapped in the country.
The IATA Regional Vice President, Africa & Middle East, Kamil Alawadhi, at a media presentation with African journalists at the IATA Global Media Day in Geneva, Switzerland, on Thursday, December 7, 2023, also said Lagos and Abuja airports had been ranked the most expensive gateways in the region despite the poor state of their infrastructure.
According to him, the Nigerian government is currently holding the highest amount of airline-trapped funds.
On blocked funds, the IATA VP listed Nigeria as the country with the highest amount of airlines’ blocked funds at $792m followed by Egypt ($348m); Algeria ($199m); AFI zone ($183m) and Ethiopia $128mn.
While Ethiopia has mapped out a strategy to defray the debt, he said that Nigeria had yet to do anything on its own.
Al-Awadhi said, “Ethiopia is seeking a way to resolve this issue even though the blocked fund is rising. The first step for us to solve these blocked funds is for both parties to engage. If parties don’t engage, it is very difficult to move forward. I have not been able to engage with Nigeria’s CBN Governor. He said he would engage with me when he had a solution. He is not promising but I have engaged with the Aviation Minister who is very understanding, new to the position, or maybe wowed by the situation he inherited will help to resolve the matter.
The airlines in Africa are owed $34 million. That $34 million is blocked. Depreciation has set in on the money. They have already lost $10 million because of depreciation. That is not fair for the airlines because they have paid all the dues to the operators of the airports. Every due has been paid for. They carry Nigerian officials on these flights and they can’t get their money.