Now, if I operated one of the largest international airlines in the world, it would seem like a reasonable expectation to be able to transfer all of the revenue made overseas back to the company’s accounts in our home country. This hasn’t been the case for international carriers with services in and out of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. Emirates, a flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates, currently has $85 million in revenue withheld in the country. The airline has grown so dissatisfied with the situation that it will no longer operate in Nigeria starting next month.
Nigeria’s economy and the value of its national currency, the naira, have been struggling due to a shortage of U.S. dollars. The oil-producing country received most of its foreign currency reserves through oil export, but oil theft and under-investment have stunted the amount of capital collected. The Nigerian government decided to bolster the country’s supply of dollars and its economy by prohibiting foreign companies to repatriate profits made in Nigeria.
This restriction obviously impacts international airlines. Nigeria is currently withholding $450 million in revenue made by international carriers. This policy isn’t unique to Nigeria. International Air Transport Association, a trade association of the world’s airlines, says that $1 billion in foreign airline revenue is being withheld by governments across Africa. Algeria, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, are withholding a combined total of $271 million from foreign airlines. Though, Nigeria is the largest holder of foreign revenue by far.
Emirates sent an open letter to Senator Hadi Sitika, the Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation in July as well as reduced services to the country in an effort to progress negotiations. The airline stated:
“We simply cannot continue to operate at the current level in the face of mounting losses, especially in the challenging post COVID-19 climate. Emirates did try to stem the losses by proposing to pay for fuel in Nigeria in naira, which would have at least reduced one element of our on-going costs, however this request was denied by the supplier. This means that not only are Emirates’ revenues accumulating, we also have to send hard currency into Nigeria to sustain our own operations. Meanwhile, our revenues are out of reach and not even earning credit interest.”
However, negotiations between all parties involved have virtually stalled and the Dubai-based airline has now released a statement announcing the suspension of all services. Emirates stated, “Therefore, Emirates has taken the difficult decision to suspend all flights to and from Nigeria, effective 1 September 2022, to limit further losses and impact on our operational costs that continue to accumulate in the market.” The airline added that it would reconsider its decision if the withheld revenue situation changed.