The dispute between the Nigerian government and foreign airlines over blocked aviation funds may soon be resolved as both teams may be meeting to find a solution.
According to the global airline body, the International Air Transport Association, IATA, the blocked funds belonging to foreign airlines had increased by 47% from $1.55 billion in April 2022 to $2.27 billion in April 2023.
Currently, Nigeria tops the list of five countries that account for as high as 68% of the blocked funds. They include: Nigeria ($812.2 million), Bangladesh ($214.1 million), Algeria ($196.3 million), Pakistan ($188.2 million), and Lebanon ($141.2 million).
The Regional Vice President of Africa and Middle East, IATA, Kamil Alawadhi, while delivering his speech at the 79th Annual General Meeting and World Air Transport Summit in Istanbul disclosed that the airline body was in the process of scheduling a meeting with the Tinubu-led administration.
“Every penny counts, airlines have been affected by the pandemic. Airlines need their funds to run their operations smoothly. We will engage the new government in Nigeria to get the blocked funds repatriated as quickly as possible,” he said.
According to Alawadhi, the body had originally initiated talks with the Nigerian government last year but that was put on hold as the preparations for the general elections took over the government’s timetable.
The IATA VP noted that the development had further led to a significant increase in the country’s debt to foreign airline operations from December 2022 till date.
Alawadhi, however, noted that the IATA team wishes to reopen deliberations with the Bola Tinubu-led government with plans of persuading the FG to clear 50% of the trapped funds as soon as possible, then make other arrangements on how to clear the remaining 50% within a determined time frame.
The body also warned on the increasing level of blocked funds adding that Nigeria’s airline connectivity with other countries would be threatened if the issues persist.
The IATA VP, also noted that Nigeria had developed a negative perception in the international investment community, a situation that has led to high ticket prices and also, made many investors shun the country