The Federal Government has appealed to foreign airlines in the country not to suspend their operations.
Nigeria’s Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, made the appeal on Wednesday in Abuja when he received the West African Regional Manager for Emirates Airlines, Manoj Gopi Nair, in his office.
Sirika said the government was aware of their challenges, assuring them that a lasting solution will be created, adding that the government will also create an environment profitable for airlines in the country.
Mr Nair however, explained that the decision to scale down operation was based on poor access to foreign exchange, high cost of aviation fuel and the state of the Abuja Airport runway.
In response, Sirika assured him that the government was already handling the issue. He said that the scarcity of aviation fuel, which threatened to cripple the industry in the recent past, had been resolved as the government had made it easier for importers to bring in the product.
And on infrastructural deficiencies at Abuja airport, Sirika said the government was already handling the issue, noting that the long-term solution was to concession the major airports.
It would be recalled that the Dubai-based airline had threatened to suspend its operations in Nnamdi Azikiwe’s airport by the end of October, due to irregularities in foreign currency repatriation policy, which had made it impossible for the airline and other airlines in the country to repatriate proceeds to their home countries.
According to a reliable source in the aviation industry, foreign airlines have lost as much as N64 billion on account of repatriating $800 million stuck in the economy in the last one year, but released after the recent devaluation of the naira.
And following the devaluation of the naria, the accumulated $800 million from airlines’ sales of tickets when the exchange rate was still at N197 to $1, was taken out of the country at the new rate of N320 to $1. Consequently, a substantial amount was lost.