…Operators asked to resume full services to Nigerian travellers
Key stakeholders in the aviation industry have reached an understanding to resolve the dispute over the ‘trapped funds’ of foreign airlines in the country through the payment of the funds in phases.
During a second round of meeting convened in Abuja on Monday by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, to resolve the dispute, an understanding was reached to source some outstanding funds, to the airlines between now and the end of December, 2022.
While the Nigerian government makes efforts to raise the money, the foreign airlines are to reciprocate the gesture by respecting the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) signed with Nigerian carriers on the number of flight slots allowed into their own countries from Nigeria.
The meeting resolved that reducing the flight frequencies of the foreign airlines would give Nigerian operators a chance to compete favourably in the market and in the long run, reduce the amount of the foreign airlines’ funds trapped in the country in the future.
In attendance at the meeting were principal officers of the House; members of the House Committee on Aviation; the Minister of Aviation, Hon. Hadi Sirika; Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele; representatives of the foreign airlines/AITA; representatives of the Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON); and representatives of travel agencies.
The parties reached an understanding that all threats by the foreign airlines to suspend flight operations or making flight booking a nightmare to Nigerians should be put on hold for now.
Emirates Airlines, which had already announced October 28 as the last date of its flight operation out of Nigeria, was also advised to extend the deadline in the light of the ongoing efforts to release a quantum of the trapped funds.
However, IATA, which spoke for all the foreign airlines, except Emirates Airlines, promised to communicate the decisions taken at the meeting formally to the airlines and report back to the leadership of the House within the shortest time possible.
Gbajabiamila, while winding down the meeting,, said, “Can the airlines suspend action for now and continue business till the December outlook? I don’t want a situation when you start a fight and you never know how it will end.
“We are here to protect you and at the same time uphold the integrity of Nigeria. Give us a couple of months to see what we can do to reduce the backlog with the help of the CBN.
“So, we have a loose understanding to call this a ceasefire, while all the other issues are being looked into as well.”
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