FG to Meet CBN for Forex Allocation to Airline Operators

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By Adedapo Adesanya

The federal government, through the Ministry of Aviation, has assured airline operators that it would liaise with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the allocation of foreign exchange (forex) to them at a single-digit interest rate as low as 1.5 per cent.

However, the central government said it would soon begin to compel domestic airlines to compensate passengers for incessant delays and cancellations of flights.

The Minister of Aviation, Mr Festus Keyamo, while speaking on flight disruption challenges during a meeting with the officials of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) in Abuja, said efforts would be made to make the sector adhere to global standard practices.

Mr Keyamo said, “The ministry will liaise with the CBN to see how operators can get Fx at a single-digit interest rate of 1.5 to 2 per cent as requested.”

He also said regulators will begin to implement the provision of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Act that mandates airlines to compensate passengers for delays/cancellations of flight schedules caused by the airlines.

“So, you see, after some time, we will start implementing the provisions of the NCAA Act. You know, Nigerians don’t know there is compensation for delay. If it is an act of God, you cannot pay. But if it is human fault, the NCAA Act says you will pay,” the minister said.

Amidst weak regulation, many Nigerians have been victims of flight delays and cancellations across airports in Nigeria.

Mr Keyamo noted that airline operators are expected to pay customers for flight delays and cancellations.

“After some time, I will put my feet on the ground. Pay them when you delay, cancel their flight,” he said.

“I know you (the airline operators) have said all your reasons. You have blamed the government and a few things we do. But I also want to say that it is not all that is the government.

“At times, you say you were waiting for passengers to finish passing through the screening machine. At times, they have finished passing through screening machines. They are waiting in the lounge for five hours and you cancel your flight.”

Mr Keyamo noted that the government will soon begin the implementation of the NCAA act to seek justice for Nigerians.

On the part of AON, its Vice President and Chairman of Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema, lamented that foreign airlines have been given preferential treatment in terms of intra-city operations which is not in line with international standards.

He said for instance “Air Peace flies to Mumbai in India but up till date they haven’t granted our request to fly to New Delhi because they don’t permit inter-city hoping and this is the practice almost everywhere around the world,” adding that it is shocking that it is only in Nigeria that international airlines are allowed to drop passengers in Port Harcourt then come to Lagos and Abuja.

“It is not practised anywhere and must be stopped,” he said.

At the meeting on Monday, the operators called for interventions into issues bedevilling airline operations in the country, lamenting that forex scarcity has become a major challenge for their operations in the country and called for the intervention of the CBN.

They also urged the federal government to establish and provide a dedicated support line for domestic airline operators to have unfettered access to foreign exchange through the CBN at the official I&E window.

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