By Prince Okafor
THE International Air Transport Association, IATA, yesterday disclosed that the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, releasing about 43 per cent of the total funds belonging to foreign airlines trapped in the country has placed Nigeria in a positive light across the global community.
Vanguard had reported that the CBN had last weekend, released $265million, being part of the over $464 million belonging to the foreign airlines.
Foreign airlines collect Naira for their tickets from customers and exchange the same for foreign currencies for their operations.
But recently they said they had been unable to get the exchange executed through the official foreign exchange market due to scarcity of foreign exchange resources.
However, IATA’s Regional Vice President, Africa & Middle East, Kamil Alawahdi, in a statement yesterday, stated that the international body would continue to engage the Nigerian government on the need to release the remaining trapped funds.
He said: “IATA welcomes the Nigerian Government’s release of $265m of airlines’ blocked funds. We will continue to engage with it on expediting the release of the remaining amount so that airlines can continue providing the connectivity Nigeria requires without disrupting and harming its economy and jobs.
“We encourage other countries, in Africa and elsewhere, that are blocking the repatriation of foreign airlines’ funds, to follow Nigeria’s example and release the money they are withholding. Without it, airlines cannot afford to serve those countries. This would be detrimental to the people and businesses that depend on the market connectivity those airlines provide.
“IATA speaks and leads the industry on matters of common interest. While IATA cannot speak for individual airlines, we hope the release of blocked funds with assurances and safeguards to prevent a recurrence, will persuade affected carriers to continue serving Nigeria.”
Following the release of the $265 million of the funds, Nigeria still has an outstanding of over $300 million to pay the foreign carriers.
In July, IATA disclosed that other African countries that are still indebted to the foreign carriers include Zimbabwe $100m; Algeria $96m; Eritrea $79m; and Ethiopia $75m.