Aviation Transport

Foreign airlines’ $19m funds still trapped in CBN, says IATA

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said that about $19million, belonging to foreign airlines operating in Nigeria, was still trapped with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The director-general of IATA, Willie Wash, disclosed this at a world media conference during the ongoing Annual General Meeting of the association in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Walsh stated that thee remaining two per cent of funds amounting to $19million yet to be repatriated was due to the Nigeria’s Central Bank’s ongoing verification of outstanding forward claims filed by commercial banks.
He, however, noted that as of April 2024, 98% of trapped funds had been cleared, assuring that individual Nigerians and the economy will benefit from reliable air connectivity.
“As of April 2024, 98% of these funds have been cleared. The remaining $19 million is due to the Central Bank’s ongoing verification of outstanding forward claims filed by the commercial banks. We commend the new Nigerian government and the Central Bank of Nigeria for their efforts to resolve this issue.
“Individual Nigerians and the economy will all benefit from reliable air connectivity for which access to revenues is critical. We are on the right path and urge the government to clear the residual $19 million and continue prioritizing aviation,” Walsh stated.
Before now, Walsh identified eight countries to be responsible for 87% of blocked funds amounting to $1.6 billion, with Nigeria topping the list of the most indebted countries.
He listed other countries still holding to the trapped funds to include: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Algeria, XAF Zone, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Eritrea and Zimbabwe.
The IATA DG declared that the payment of Nigeria’s debts has subsequently led to a 28% decrease in the amount of airline funds blocked from repatriation by governments.
The total blocked funds at the end of April stood at approximately $1.8 billion, a reduction of $708 million (28%) since December 2023.
IATA reiterated its call on governments to remove all barriers to airlines repatriating their revenues from ticket sales and other activities in accordance with international agreements and treaty obligations.
“The reduction in blocked funds is a positive development. The remaining $1.8 billion, however, is significant and must be urgently addressed. The efficient repatriation of airline revenues is guaranteed in bilateral agreements. Even more importantly, it is a pre-requisite for airlines who operate on thin margins to be able to provide economically critical connectivity. No business can operate long-term without access to rightfully earned revenues.
“The main driver of the reduction was a significant clearance of funds blocked in Nigeria. Egypt also approved the clearance of its significant accumulation of blocked funds. However, in both cases, airlines were adversely affected by the devaluation of the Egyptian Pound and the Nigerian Naira.
“At its peak in June 2023, Nigeria’s blocked funds amounted to $850 million, significantly affecting airline operations and finances in the country. Carriers faced difficulties in repatriating revenues in US dollars, and the high volume of blocked funds led some airlines to reduce their operations and Emirates airlines to temporarily cease operations to Nigeria, which severely impacted the country’s aviation industry,” the IATA boss stated.

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