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Nigeria says most funds repatriated to Dubai’s Emirates

Emirates Emirates Media Centre
Nigeria’s aviation minister Hadi Sirika says around $35 million still needs to be released

Emirates has got most of its funds out of Nigeria and has around $35 million that still needs to be released, aviation minister Hadi Sirika said.

President Muhammadu Buhari in February directed the central bank to increase the amount of foreign currency allocated to Emirates after the airline suspended flights to and from Nigeria because it was unable to repatriate funds.

In a telephone conversation with UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Buhari had 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, the airline suspended the service from the end of October due to the same issue of blocked funds.

Sirika did not provide a timeline for releasing the trapped funds.

Qatar Airlines had $201 million blocked while another $216 million was owed to Iata airlines, Reuters reported the minister as saying.

“We are doing our best to get the monies released,” Sirika added.

The African nation 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 dollar shortages have made it difficult for some foreign airlines that sold tickets in the Nigerian naira to get their money out of the country.

A spokesperson for the global airlines industry association Iata said last week that Nigeria was withholding $743 million in revenue earned by international carriers operating in the country, the highest amount owed by any nation.

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