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Nigeria in Talks with Foreign Airlines Over $600m Trapped Funds

Emirates Airlines last week announced that it would stop all scheduled operations to Nigeria from September 1 if no action was taken by government.

Lai Mohammed

Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has said relevant authorities are working towards addressing issues concerning revenue of foreign airlines that have been trapped in Nigeria, put at over $600 million.

Speaking during a facility tour at the new international terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, on Monday, the minister said: “On the trapped funds, I can tell you that the relevant authorities are working hard on that issue.”

Emirates Airlines last week announced that it would stop all scheduled operations to Nigeria from September 1, 2022, if no action was taken by government to address airline’s revenues which it had been unable to repatriate, that have risen to about $95 million.

There are also indications that other foreign airlines might review their operations to Nigeria over their inability to repatriate their earnings from the country.

On delayed commencement of flight operations at the new Lagos terminal, the minister said there was need to first test-run the facility and be extremely certain that the equipment was working optimally before the terminal would be put to use.

“I was here 40 years ago when the first terminal was commissioned. There is a time between the commissioning of an airport and when the airport becomes operational. You know aviation is unforgiven of any mistake. So we need to test-run and be extremely certain that every equipment is working optimally,” Mohammed said.

The minister said the Chinese loan used to facilitate the building of the new terminal would be paid back, adding that the major challenge in Nigeria was that its tax to GDP ratio was so low because most Nigerians don’t pay tax.

He, however, appealed to Nigerians to help government by paying their taxes, so that there would be reduction in the deficit the country was experiencing.

The new International Terminal 2 of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, was not built to replace Terminal 1, but to complement it. With this, passengers would be able to check in at one terminal and board at the other.

Mohammed also said this was the first terminal added to the original terminal since it was built some 40 years ago.

“The Terminal 2 Project started in 2013 and was completed by the present administration in 2022, under a bilateral agreement with the People’s Republic of China. The terminal, which has state-of-the art facilities and fittings, has the capacity to process 14 million passengers per annum.

“There is a whole new experience in terms of aesthetics, comfort, free trolley services, hotel and premium lounges, friendly customer services and free wifi. Over 10,000 direct and indirect job opportunities have been created in the news terminal,” he added.

Also speaking at the event, the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, (FAAN), Rabiu Yadudu said FAAN would rather take its time than start flight operations at the new airport on wrong footing, adding that this does not mean nothing was being done.

He said from the September 1, 2022, five more airlines had been scheduled to start operations in the new international terminal.

Yadudu said a lot of integration has to be done and more than eight airlines have shown interest in starting operations at the new terminal, but five would start from September 1.

“There is a connecting area with the old terminal where passengers will move from one terminal to the other. We need the aircraft to be able to park at one side.

“The second part is that FAAN is working with the federal government to ensure the clearing of obstruction so that there will be accessibility for the planes to park in that area.

Also speaking after the tour, the Director General, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Musa Nuhu refuted reports that the authority has increased landing and parking fees.

“I am not aware and I have not authorised any charge increase. The truth of the matter is that the last time NCAA increased its charges was 10 years ago. If we were charging N5, 000 10 years ago and we are still charging same amount, it means we are not recovering our costs.

“We are providing services and subsidising it. We understand the difficulties facing the industry now, but going forward, we have to sit down and review it because NCAA does not get any money from federal government. All our revenues are internally generated and we need the revenues to provide the appropriate services for the safety, security and efficient service delivery to the public. NCAA can also not increase any charge without having a stakeholders’ consultation,” Nuhu explained.

Chinedu Eze

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