Emirates Finally Suspends Flights Operation to Nigeria Over Trapped Funds.
Emirates Airlines has announced its decision to suspend operation in Nigeria, more than a month after it made public its struggles to repatriate its $85 million trapped fund.
In a statement issued by the airline Thursday, the Emirates said its inability to repatriate the fund has forced it to take this regrettable action.
“Emirates has tried every avenue to address our ongoing challenges in repatriating funds from Nigeria and have made considerable efforts to initiate dialogue with the relevant authorities for their urgent intervention to help find a viable solution. Regrettable there has been no progress,” Emirates said in a statement.
Last month, the United Arab Emirates, UAE-based company made attempts to get Nigerian authorities to find a solution to the problem and announced an August 15 deadline during which the airline would reduce its flights from Dubai to Lagos from 11 weekly to 7. However, all efforts yielded no fruits.
Nigeria’s Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika cited precedence in the past where Nigerian authorities withheld foreign airlines’ funds in an interview with CNN, saying it is no new.
“In the past, Nigeria has demonstrated the capacity and the willingness and fairness to resolve this type of issue. It happened when we took over power in 2015. There were lots of blocked funds, about $600 million at that time. It was at a time when the country was in a recession and there were dwindling revenues coming to the country, yet we honored our obligation to pay out all those blocked funds,” he said.
“Unfortunately, due to many factors and reasons, the monies piled back up. Government is working hard to ensure that these monies are released, not only for Emirates but all airlines affected,” Sirika further said, adding that “mechanisms will be put in place to ensure that this does not occur in the future.”
Recall that in a letter written to Nigeria’s aviation minister Senator Hadi Sirika, dated July 22, 2022, and signed by Sheik Majid Al Mualla, the DSVP International Affairs, the airline had revealed their quota in the total sum withheld by the country’s apex bank, CBN.
“As of July 2022, Emirates has US$ 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.
Meanwhile, the difficulty in repatriating the fund has been blamed on the shortage of foreign exchange in Nigeria. Nigeria has continued to experience foreign exchange shortfalls this year leading to hyper-inflation and acute depreciation of its local currency, the naira against the dollar and other currencies.
Efforts to stem the tide by the CBN have continued to end in failure, sparking calls in some quarters for the removal of the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele.
The action taken by Emirates has raised concerns in the country’s aviation section because of the likelihood that other affected airlines would take similar actions.