Emirates Airlines has cut down on flight operations to Nigeria from August 15, citing the Central Bank’s continued withholding of $85 million from its ticket sales in Nigeria.
The airline disclosed this in a letter written to Nigeria’s aviation minister Senator Hadi Sirika, dated July 22, 2022, and signed by Sheik Majid Al Mualla, the DSVP International Affairs.
“As of July 2022, Emirates has US$ 85 million of funds awaiting repatriation from Nigeria. This figure has been rising by more than $US 10 million every month, as the ongoing operational costs of our 11 weekly flights to Lagos and 5 to Abuja continue to accumulate,” the letter said.
“With effect from 15 August 2022, Emirates will be forced to reduce flights from Dubai to Lagos from 11 per week to 7 per week.”
According to Mr. Al Mualla, the airline had made efforts to work out a solution with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) without success and also held meetings between Emirates’ own bank in Nigeria and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to discuss improving Forex allocation, all to no avail.
Mr. Al Mualla’s letter follows a similar complaint from the IATA in June, where a top official disclosed that Nigeria has withheld $450 million in revenue from international carriers operating in the country.
The downsizing of Emirates operations in Nigeria will put further pressure on the naira as Nigerians will scramble for dollars to pay for the available flights when the policy kicks in next month.
When People’s Gazette reached out for comments, the Central Bank’s Director of Corporate Communications Osita Nwanisobi said a response would be given. Follow-up messages and calls had not been returned at the time they filed their report.
On Friday, Mr. Nwanisobi reiterated the central bank’s commitment to resolving the foreign exchange issues plaguing the country and as such had been working to manage both the demand and supply side challenges. His comments came after officers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) raided Bureaux De Change(BDC) operators in Abuja.
Some foreign airlines operating in Nigeria had announced in April that flight tickets would only be purchased in U.S. dollars to aid the repatriation of airline funds stuck in Nigeria and other foreign exchange fluctuations.
Nigeria’s forex crisis has advanced on all fronts as the naira continues to fall against the dollar, sending prices soaring and spiking the cost of living.
On Wednesday, the naira crashed further in the parallel market, trading for N710 against the U.S. dollar despite Mr. Emefiele’s supposed attempts to defend it. The Senate has summoned the Central Bank governor to answer for the currency’s free fall.
Crude oil, Nigeria’s top forex earner, will not provide succor despite rising global prices in 2022. The World Bank projected that Nigeria will not benefit fiscally as it continues to struggle under the weight of heavy subsidy payments.
The projections come as President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime depleted Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account (ECA) from over $2 billion left by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 to $376,655 in July 2022.