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Nigeria to sanction airlines selling flight tickets in foreign currency

By Dennis Erezi
07 September 2022   |   1:50 pm
Nigeria on Wednesday said the refusal of airline operators to sell flight tickets in its local Naira currency violates its laws. Nigeria's aviation minister Hadi Sirika said airlines found culpable in such acts will be sanctioned for selling tickets in foreign currency. "Refusing to sell tickets in Naira, and blocking access to cheaper seats, are…

Nigeria aviation minister Hadi Sirika

Nigeria on Wednesday said the refusal of airline operators to sell flight tickets in its local Naira currency violates its laws.

Nigeria’s aviation minister Hadi Sirika said airlines found culpable in such acts will be sanctioned for selling tickets in foreign currency.

“Refusing to sell tickets in Naira, and blocking access to cheaper seats, are violations of our local laws,” Sirika told journalists after the government’s weekly Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja.

“We will not allow it, all violators will be sanctioned.”

The minister’s statements come two weeks after airline operators announced that they were suspending flight operations to and from Nigeria.

Emirates Airline in mid-August said it suspended flights in Nigeria over failure to recover debts it said was rising more than $10 million monthly.

READ ALSO: Emirates suspends flights from Nigeria over $85million debt

The airline said its current debt in Nigeria stands at $85 million.

Emirates Airlines spokesman Rula Tadros in a statement said the company had explored “every avenue to address our ongoing challenges in repatriating funds” after making “considerable efforts to initiate dialogue with the relevant authorities.”

A week after, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said it released $265 million to airlines operating in the country to settle outstanding-trapped funds from ticket sales.

CBN spokesperson Osita Nwanisobi said a breakdown of the figure indicates that $230 million was released as a special FX intervention while another $35 million was released through the Retail SMIS auction.

READ ALSO: CBN releases $265m to airlines for outstanding tickets

“With Friday’s release, it is expected that operators and travellers as well will heave huge sigh of relief, as some airlines had threatened to withdraw their services in the face of unremitted funds for the outstanding sale of tickets,” Nwanisobi said.

Sirika on Wednesday assured that the CBN is working to ensure that airline funds are not trapped.

“We are doing everything to make these airlines happy in Nigeria. We need their services; they need our market,” Sirika said.

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