Airline Operators, CBN Clash Over FX Backlog Settlement Claims

January 31, 2024
CBN interbank forex market

By Adedapo Adesanya

There is a disagreement between the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and foreign airline operators regarding the claims by the former that it has completed the payment of foreign exchange (FX) backlogs trapped in the country.

The CBN on Tuesday said it has completed the payment of all verified forex liabilities to foreign airlines with the injection of an additional $64.44 million into the sector, noting that the total amount disbursed to the aviation sector was $136.7 million, contradicting the widely reported backlog of over $700 million the operators said is trapped in the country.

A few days ago, in a statement by the acting director of corporate communications at the CBN, Mrs Hakama Sidi-Ali, it was disclosed that $500 million was released to settle some liabilities across sectors, with the CBN saying it has cleared all FX backlogs owed international airlines.

But in a counter statement, the Geneva-Switzerland-based body representing global airlines — the International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomed the latest $64.44 million payment but highlighted that approximately $700 million remained unpaid, urging further action.

The association said, “IATA welcomes the Central Bank of Nigeria’s announcement this afternoon that it has released an additional $64.44 million in blocked airline funds. While this development is encouraging, it’s crucial to recognise that approximately $700 million remains blocked with Nigeria’s commercial banks.

“As such, there’s a considerable journey ahead in fully addressing the issue. This is exacerbated by the devaluation of the Nigerian Naira, which has dropped significantly against the Dollar. Airlines should not be unfairly penalised by the lower exchange rate.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and work with the government to ensure that the environment remains conducive to ensuring Nigeria’s connectivity to international markets.”

The CBN also reassured stakeholders that efforts were underway to enhance liquidity within the forex market as a means of reducing pressure on the naira.

Expressing optimism about the positive response to the injection of over $64 million into the market, the CBN has also warned against speculative actions and their potential harm to the Nigerian currency.

It also urged the public to support the reforms in the foreign exchange market, adding that it would continue to promote orderliness and professional conduct by all participants in the Nigerian foreign exchange market to ensure market forces determine exchange rates.

Adedapo Adesanya

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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