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Nigerian central bank told to allocate more dollars to Emirates

Emirates Emirates
Emirates suspended its flights to Nigeria on two occasions last year over blocked funds

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the country’s central bank to increase the amount of foreign currency allocated to Dubai’s Emirates airline, after it suspended flights to and from Nigeria because it was unable to repatriate funds.

Nigeria is facing severe dollar shortages, forcing many citizens and businesses to seek foreign exchange on the black market, where its naira currency has progressively weakened.

The UAE airline suspended its Nigerian flights on two occasions last year as local currency earned from ticket sales was trapped in Africa’s most populous nation.

In a telephone conversation with UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Monday, Buhari requested a resumption of Emirates’ flights to Nigeria and the lifting of a “blanket” visa ban imposed on Nigerians by the UAE, Buhari’s office reported.

“Buhari assured the UAE leader that the issue of the Emirates funds was receiving appropriate attention alongside those of other foreign airlines operating in Nigeria,” it said in a statement.

The central bank in August 2022 released $265 million to airlines to settle outstanding ticket sales, after which Emirates resumed its Nigerian flights in September. However, it suspended them again from the end of October as a result of the same issue of blocked funds.

The International Air Transport Association said last year that Nigeria was blocking airlines from repatriating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

Oil is Nigeria’s biggest foreign exchange earner, but rampant crude theft in the Niger Delta and years of underinvestment have hurt output and strained government finances. For a few months last year, Angola overtook Nigeria as Africa’s biggest oil producer and exporter.