Foreign airlines’ trapped funds in Nigeria soar to $812.2 million, amid calls for action

Article Summary

  • At $818.2 million, Nigeria holds the highest amount of foreign airlines’ blocked funds.
  • The total trapped funds globally amount to $2.27 billion, with Nigeria, Bangladesh, Algeria, Pakistan, and Lebanon having the highest amounts.
  • The escalating blocked funds threaten airline connectivity, requiring urgent action to ensure economic activity and job creation.

Foreign airlines’ trapped funds in Nigeria has risen to $818.2 million, the highest of such record in the entire world.

This is as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on affected countries, especially Nigeria, to abide by the international agreements reached with various governments regarding ticket sales repatriation.

What you should know

A statement by Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director-General, put the total trapped funds in the world at $2.27 billion as of April 2023.

As of March 2023, the total trapped fund in Nigeria was $700 million. But it has since risen to $818.2 million between March and April, marking a  $118.2 million increase.

Other countries with high trapped funds

Apart from Nigeria, IATA also mentioned Bangladesh ($214.1 million), Algeria ($196.3 million), Pakistan ($188.2 million), and Lebanon ($141.2 million) as nations with the highest trapped foreign airlines’ funds in the world.

IATA explained that the top five countries account for 68 per cent of blocked funds globally.

IATA’s warning

Walsh warned that rapidly rising levels of blocked funds are a threat to airline connectivity in the affected markets.

He emphasized that the industry’s blocked funds have increased by 47 per cent to $2.27 billion in April 2023 from $1.55 billion in April 2022.

He also explained that airlines could not continue to offer flight services in countries where they have found it difficult to repatriate their funds and called for quick action to address the situation. He said:

  • Airlines cannot continue to offer services in markets where they are unable to repatriate the revenues arising from their commercial activities in those markets.
  • ”Governments need to work with industry to resolve this situation so airlines can continue to provide the connectivity that is vital to driving economic activity and job creation.”

Need for urgent action

IATA urged governments to abide by international agreements and treaty obligations to enable airlines to repatriate these funds arising from the sale of tickets, cargo space, and other activities.

In March, IATA said that the trapped fund of foreign airlines in Nigeria was the highest in the world.

IATA in a meeting with the former Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, put the figure of trapped funds in Nigeria at $743,731,027 million.

The association, led by Dr Samson Fatokun, its Area Manager in West and Central Africa, thereby appealed to Sirika to use his closeness with former President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure the release of the funds, especially as the administration was winding down.

The document dated March 14, 2023, addressed to the Minister of Aviation and signed by Fatokun with the head: ‘Special Appeal On Airlines’ Blocked Funds In Nigeria,’ feared that once the present administration leaves office, it may be difficult for the airlines to repatriate the trapped funds.

The document revealed that the total trapped funds in Nigeria as of January 2023 was $662 million, while it remained at $549 million in December 2023.

However, IATA lamented that the sums had increased to $743,721,027 million within two months in 2023, indicating about an $81 million increase within the period. Part of the document said:

  • “IATA and the global airline community would like to appeal for your special intervention for the resolution of airlines blocked funds issue in Nigeria. For over a year, Nigeria has been the country with the highest amount of airline-blocked funds in the world. Please find attached the comparative table of airlines’ blocked funds by country. Moreover, as of January 2023, airlines’ blocked funds in Nigeria have increased to $743,731, 027 from $662 million in January 2023 and $549 million in December 2022.
  • “The backlog of international airlines’ blocked funds in Nigeria, sends a strong message against Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Nigeria in Nigeria. Potential investors are reacting from the plight of the airlines that they would not be able to repatriate their funds from Nigeria, even at this moment when Nigeria is expecting investments in the concession of some of its prominent airports.”

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