The Central Bank of Nigeria and foreign airlines operating in Nigeria have differed over the total amount of unpaid ticket revenue in the country.
The CBN on Tuesday said it had ‘concluded the payment of all verified claims’’ by foreign airlines with the payment of an additional $64.44m to concerned airlines.
The central bank said the development had brought the total verified amount paid to the air transport sector to $136.73m, adding that “all the verified airline claims had now been cleared.”
In a statement issued by the CBN Acting Director of Corporate Communications, Mrs Hakama Sidi Ali, and titled, “FX Backlog: CBN Concludes Payment of All Verified Claims By Airlines”, the apex bank said, “the Central Bank of Nigeria, fulfilling its pledge to clear the backlog of foreign exchange owed foreign airlines in the country, has concluded the payment of all verified claims by airlines with an additional $64.44m to the concerned airlines.”
The statement said the CBN Governor, Olayemi Cardoso, and his team were doubly committed and would stop at nothing to ensure that the verified backlog of payments across all other sectors was cleared and confidence was restored in the Nigerian foreign exchange market.
Furthermore, Sidi Ali assured Nigerians that the CBN was working with stakeholders to ensure liquidity improves within the forex market, thereby reducing pressure on the naira.
However, the International Air Transport Association in a swift reaction lauded the CBN for the latest payment of part of the trapped funds but stressed that over $700m was still trapped in the country.
While describing the $64.44m disbursement as a welcome development, IATA maintained that approximately $700m was still unpaid.
In a statement, the Geneva-Switzerland-based body representing global airlines, said, “IATA welcomes the Central Bank of Nigeria’s announcement this afternoon that it has released an additional $64.44m in blocked airline funds. While this development is encouraging it’s crucial to recognize that approximately $700m 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 naira has continued to fall against the United States dollar with the local unit falling to an all-time low on Monday.
FMDQ Exchange data on Monday showed the naira had fallen to a record low of N1,348/dollar at the official market.
In the last three months, the CBN has cleared over $2.5bn in overdue foreign exchange debts.
On Monday, the CBN said that it has released $500m to various sectors in its determination to address the backlog of verified foreign exchange transactions.
The CBN 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.