By Uche Amunike
The aviation sector is indeed going through troubled times in the country as Emirates Airlines suspends flights arriving Nigeria as a result of the prevailing challenges it is presently facing in repatriating revenue from the country.
According to a statement issued by the Public Relations Manager of the Emirates Airlines, it stated that deciding that Emirates Airlines suspends flights coming to Nigeria was a tough decision, but one which they were forced to arrive at in order to reduce further losses and impact on their operational costs which has continued to be on the rise in the market.
The statement partly read: ‘Emirates has taken the difficult decision to suspend all flights to and from Nigeria, effective 1 September 2022,’ the airline said.
It further stated: ‘Emirates has tried every avenue to address our ongoing challenges in repatriating funds from Nigeria, and we have made considerable efforts to initiate dialogue with the relevant authorities for their urgent intervention to help find a viable solution. Regrettably, there has been no progress,’ the Airline added.
‘We remain keen to serve Nigeria, and our operations provide much-needed connectivity for Nigerian travellers, providing access to trade and tourism opportunities to Dubai, and to our broader network of over 130 destinations’, they concluded.
The airline has vouched to continue to work in order to assist impacted customers in making alternative arrangements whenever the need arose. They further averred that they would re-evaluate their decision if it turns out that there are any positive outcomes in the coming days concerning their blocked funds in Nigeria.
This current situation occurred less than three weeks after the Emirates Airlines announced in a letter which they addressed to Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, intimating that they will reduce the number of flights that will arrive Nigeria from August 15 as a result of its failure repatriate $85 million revenue from the country.
They made it clear in the letter that the figure has been on the increase by over $10 million every month, just as operational costs of 11 weekly flights to Lagos and 5 weekly flights to Abuja continues to accumulate as well.
According to a Special Assistant to Mr Sirika, Mr James Odaudu, the aviation ministry was not to be blamed that Emirates Airlines suspends flights to Nigeria, or for their funds being trapped in the country.
His words: ‘the ministry of Aviation has no role to play in the airlines trapped funds in the country.”
‘It is the Ministry of Finance and Central Bank of Nigeria that needs to sort them out’, he posited.
Nigeria’s foreign exchange problems has indeed gotten worse, even as its depletion of foreign reserves and soaring demand, which has further exacerbated the fall of the Naira at both the official and parallel markets respectively, within the past few months.
As it stands, domestic airline operators in the country are also facing the dire challenge of the rising cost of aviation fuel, which has led to an astronomical rise in their base fares by over 100 percent in the last couple of months.
In the emergency meeting held between the Ministry of Aviation and airline operators, last month, Mr Sirika was clear when he stated that ‘there are no immediate solutions to the lingering problem in the sector’. According to him, the present situation in the sector is a global one.