…As Gbajabiamila seeks solution to trapped funds for foreign airlines

By: g9ija

Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, yesterday reeled out figures of funds in million of dollars paid to the foreign airlines operating in Nigeria.

The payment was in the efforts to prevent an impending suspension of flights by the foreign airlines over the issue of $700 million trapped funds.

The airlines wanted the government to resolve the backlog.

Reacting to the position of International Air Transport Association, IATA’s representative, Mr Fatokun that no efforts had been made to reduce the backlog and that only $265 million had been earmarked for disbursement to the foreign airlines, Emefiele said the funds were released at the discretion of the apex bank.

He said: “Aside from the prioritization of FX we have always accorded airlines, on the August 31, you spoke to me because I have to give you credit for that. That day I made a decision to use our discretion to allocate $265 million to the foreign airlines.

“We did $110 million in spot and the rest 60 days forward. On that day, we allocated to IATA $32 million through UBA, Qatar Airways got $22.8 million through Standard Chartered, Emirates got $19.6 million through Access Bank, BA got $5.5m through GTB; Virgin Atlantic got $4.8 million through Zenith and so on.

”How then can they go about and begin to say they have not received their money? This is aside from the so-called eight or 10 per cent you say you are getting Mr Fatokun (referring to the IATA representative).

“This is extra allocation which we use our own discretion to give you and which I have told you personally that we would continue to do to make you guys happy so you don’t continue to blackmail this country.

”Out of that, $120 million would be due on October 31. The monies would be paid. So, what else do you want me to do. I must confess there would be delay. Gentlemen, I cannot print Naira, even though I have been accused of printing Naira, but I cannot print dollars.

”We have to earn it or borrow it. All these things we are talking about boil down to reciprocity and IATA cannot shy away from that.”

While calling on other foreign countries to reciprocate the gesture and also grant landing permits to Nigerian airlines to fly their routes to reduce the burden of accumulated funds, Emefiele said one third of the global community was enmeshed in recession.

“IATA has the responsibility to get Nigerian airlines to fly on the basis of reciprocity.  Everyone is calling on CBN, blocked funds, and I am doing everything I can to provide dollar for you to repatriate your money.

”How can you come here and begin to tell us that you were not a party to BASA and for that reason you are not interested in the concept of reciprocity when you know that would benefit your country and our country.

“What is happening is a global challenge. Indeed as I speak, I can say that the global outlook today is darkening due to deepening global slowdown.

”As a result of this year alone, the USA happens to raise rates almost by 3.75 per cent in 2022. That has created some serious inflation pressures and depreciation on the currencies of other countries.

Earlier, speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, had said the House was mindful of the economic implementation of  flight suspension, hence the meeting to fathom solutions.

He also called on the foreign countries to reciprocate the gesture and allow Nigerian airlines fly their routes.

On his part, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, said the present government had shown capacity to respond to issues.

“Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari has shown the capacity and audacity to stand up in difficult moments to do the right thing to help the country.

“In 2016, when we came in, there were about $480 million blocked in Nigeria that year, we were in recession and revenues had dwindled. We just heard the CBN governor say we either earn or borrow it.

”At that moment, we had not even started borrowing. So we went to Mr President and informed him of the difficulty we were in. And he asked the CBN governor and Minister of Finance to resolve the problem, which was done.

”So we have demonstrated as a country to be able to respond, even in difficult moments, to things that are obligations upon us,” he said.