Several foreign airlines, including Turkish Airlines, Emirate Airlines, and British Airways, may soon pull out of Nigeria if the country fails to release their funds trapped in the forex market.
This was the warning issued by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) at its media briefing on Friday, where it disclosed the huge amount of money owed by African and Middle Eastern countries to foreign airlines, with Nigeria accounting for over 70 percent of Africa’s debt.
The Regional Vice President for Africa and Middle East, Kamil Alawadhi, said that Nigeria alone had blocked or trapped funds worth US$2.57 billion, which belonged to the foreign airlines operating in the country.
He said that Nigeria’s debt or trapped funds was $792 million, almost as much as the combined debt of Egypt ($348 million), Algeria ($199 million), the XAF zone ($183 million), and Ethiopia ($128 million).
He added that Nigeria and 19 other African countries had a total of $1.94 billion of trapped funds, with Nigeria being responsible for almost half of that amount at $792 million.
The IATA boss expressed concern over the negative impact of this situation on the aviation industry in Nigeria and the country’s image as the Federal Government seeks to attract foreign investment.
He said that this would lead to a reduction in the airline capacity in Nigeria, a loss of connectivity to Nigeria, and a worsening of the perception of the Nigerian business environment.
He also said that this would result in higher ticket prices for travellers, as both domestic and international routes had already reached record highs and might increase further next year.
He appealed to the government, especially the Nigerian government, to prioritise aviation in accessing foreign exchange, as air connectivity was a vital economic catalyst for the country.