Foreign Airlines May Abandon Nigeria as Trapped Funds Hit $802m

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By Adedapo Adesanya

There are worries in the Nigerian aviation industry as the total amount of foreign airlines’ trapped funds in the country has risen to $802 million from the $743.7 million reported less than a month ago.

The updated figure, which was provided by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Switzerland-based trade association of world airlines, showed a 7.8 per cent rise.

IATA warned the Nigerian government that the situation could hamper air connectivity, economic growth, and the development of the country’s aviation sector.

The Director-General of IATA, Mr Willie Walsh, made the disclosure while launching Focus Africa, a new initiative aimed at strengthening aviation’s contribution to Africa’s economic and social development.

The project will also improve connectivity, safety, and reliability for passengers and shippers.

Sounding an ominous warning, Mr Walsh said, “Airlines may be forced to reduce their service in the countries blocking funds; this is a very important issue to airlines and IATA. It is capable of affecting the growth of African aviation.”

On her part, IATA Chairperson-designate and RwandAir Chief Executive Officer, Mrs Yvone Makolo, listed Nigeria as the country with the highest blocked funds in Africa and the world.

According to her, the total amount of blocked funds in Africa is over $1.6 billion, out of which Nigeria has more than 50 per cent, at $802 million, after Algeria which is the country with the highest blocked funds in Africa.

The Regional Vice President for Africa & Middle East, IATA, Mr Kamil Al Awadhi, lamented that 66 per cent of blocked funds were in Africa.

He listed blocked funds as a big issue that could affect the Single African Air Transport Market project and hamper the growth potential of Africa’s aviation sector.

“Blocked funds is one of the biggest issues that will affect aviation. There has been a 10 per cent increase in blocked funds recently. The total amount of blocked funds is huge. This is one of the things we need to address to move forward,” the IATA VP added.

Mr Al Awadhi said IATA had had several engagements with the Nigerian government on the blocked funds, noting that the association would continue discussions with the incoming government due to be inaugurated in May.

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