Aviation expert Bankole Bernard has urged President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime to urgently assist in the provision of foreign exchange to allow foreign airlines repatriate their unremitted ticket revenue.
Mr Bernard, Finchglow Holdings chair, stated this on the sideline of the 26th Annual Conference of League of Airports and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC) in Lagos on Sunday.
The International Air Transportation Association (IATA) Regional Vice President, Africa & Middle East, Kamil Al-Alawadhi, had said the amount of foreign airlines’ blocked funds in Nigeria estimated at $208 million in the third quarter in 2021 had risen to $283 million in the first quarter of 2022.
Mr Bernard noted that the effect of unremitted funds would not only affect the cost of airfares but the number of air travellers, cost of goods and rate of inflation in the country.
He urged Mr Buhari’s regime through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to address the issue of the funds as it affects aviation and other industries.
“On the issue of non-repatriation of funds by the foreign airlines, I think it is an issue that is flogged. I don’t think at this particular point in time we should still be talking about things like this,” he stated. “We need to go back to the drawing board and address this thing the way we had addressed it in the past.”
Mr Bernard added, “Remember two years ago, we had this kind of issue that even the funds got to an amount far higher than what it is now about $750 million. And here we are we are talking about $450 million that has been stocked as a result of CBN not providing funds.”
He suggested that the CBN should have given the airlines priority to enable them to repatriate their money.
“I honestly don’t understand what is happening at CBN but it really requires a lot of intervention, the government needs to address the issue,” he said.
On the effect of the high cost of aviation fuel, Mr Bernard said it would have a multiplier effect on the air fare, the number of passengers that would travel by air and the cost of goods in the market.
The expert further lamented that the rate of inflation would go up in Nigeria because the majority of the goods in the market were imported products.
“It is quite unfortunate but you know in our industry it is safety first. I want to believe that the regulator had to place safety over convenience which I absolutely agree with them. If the airlines need to undergo audits to ensure that the lives of citizens are protected I think it is worth it,” Mr Bernard further explained.