Indications just emerged that the United Arab Emirates-based airline, Emirates’ brought to pass its earlier threat to stop operations in Nigeria based on its funds trapped in the country.
The news just filtered in that the airline has suspended its operations in Nigeria thus making it the second time the airline will be pulling out of the bounty within a year.
The latest suspension of its flights was made known through a statement made available to the media in which the airline announced that its suspension of flight services to Nigeria took effect from October 29, 2022.
The airline while stating in the statement that it had communicated its position to the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on why it was stopping flights into Nigeria declared: “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 does 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% 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.
“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,” the statement explained.”
The decision to stop operations in Nigeria by the UAE airline and similar threats by other foreign carriers have been condemned by key players in the sector who described the moves by the mega carriers as blackmail.
A travel expert who spoke in confidence to Nigerian Tribune, called the bluff of the foreign carriers asking them to do their worst on the premise that despite the efforts so far made by the federal government through the Central Bank of Nigeria to ensure their trapped funds were released, the airlines still continue to conspire against the country.
The CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele had last week announced that it would release another $150 million to the airline after an initial $265million of the trapped funds earlier released.
The breakdown of the funds so far released by Emefiele showed that $32 million was allocated to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) through UBA. Qatar Airways; $22.8 million through Standard Chartered, Emirates; $19.6 million through Access Bank, British Airway; $5.5 million through GTB, Virgin Atlantic; $4.8 million through Zenith and others.
According to the travel expert, for the foreign airlines to still continue to mount pressure on the government through threats to stop operations in Nigeria despite the efforts, they should be allowed to take their leave.
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