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Emirates suspends flights to Nigeria over $85M withheld funds

By News Desk

The management of Emirates Airlines has suspended flight operations to Nigeria over its inability to repatriate $85 million held by the Federal Government, which the firm claimed was affecting its operations.

It said that decision to suspend operations was taken after all efforts to get the Federal Government and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to release the funds as earlier promised before restoring operations to the country.

The airline operator explained that the suspension was approved by its board to mitigate against any further losses moving forward.

In a statement made available to newsmen on Thursday, the Qatari airline operator said the suspension took effect from October 29, 2022.

Before this suspension, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) had barely two months ago claimed that foreign airlines have not been unable to repatriate $464 million from Nigeria.

Following the announcement, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, subsequently promised to release $265 million to foreign airlines to offset part of the trapped funds.

Months after the promise was made publicly, the apex bank’s governor was yet to release an allocation of the blocked funds repatriated to the operators.

According to the statement, “Without the timely repatriation of the funds and a mechanism in place to ensure that future repatriation of Emirates’ funds does not accumulate in any way, the backlog will continue to grow, and we simply cannot meet our operational costs nor maintain the commercial viability of our operations in Nigeria.

“We have officially communicated our position and attended multiple hearings with the Nigerian government, and we have made our proposed approach clear to alleviate this untenable situation, including a plan for the progressive release of our funds.

“This included the repatriation and receipt of at least 80% of our remaining blocked funds by the end of October 2022, in addition to providing a guaranteed mechanism to avoid future repatriation accumulation challenges and delays.

“Under these extraordinary circumstances Emirates had no option but to suspend flights to/from Nigeria from 29 October 2022 to mitigate against further losses moving forward,” the airline explained.

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