The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), says it has paid up all verified foreign exchange claims to foreign airlines operating in the country and thereby fulfilled a pledge it made to that effect.

This is expected to bring some relief to the 23 foreign airlines operating into Nigeria and the over two million passengers who fly in and out of the country per year (2022 figures NBS).

The airlines will enjoy access to their revenues for accounting, investment and other obligations, while passengers flying in and out of Nigeria will come under less pressure from the airlines to pay for tickets in foreign currencies and likewise not have to travel to neighbouring countries to take flighs abroad due to shortfalls in seats from Nigeria.

Mrs Hakama Sidi Ali, Acting Director of Corporate Communications at the CBN, said in Abuja, Tuesday that the apex bank had disbursed an additional $64.44 million to the concerned airlines out of a sum of US$500 million it released Monday, to various sectors of the economy to further address the backlog of verified foreign exchange transactions.

Mrs Sidi Ali, said the latest amount paid to the airlines brought the total verified sum disbursed to aviation sector to $136.73 million.

She reaffirmed that all the verified airline claims had therefore been cleared.

According to her, CBN Governor, Olayemi Cardoso, and his team were committed to ensuring that the verified backlog of payments across all other sectors were cleared and confidence was restored in the Nigerian foreign exchange market.

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Sidi Alli said the CBN was working with stakeholders to ensure liquidity improves within the forex market, thereby reducing pressure on the naira.

The foreign airlines with stranded funds in the country got $62 million shared among them a fortnight ago and complained the sum was inadequate.

In November last year, Emirates Airlines suspended flight operations to Nigeria over its inability to repatriate its $85 million revenue trapped in the country. The suspension was the second time the airline halted flights to Nigeria over its unrepatriated funds — the first time was in August, 2022.

Emirates had previously suspended flights in September 2022 but resumed after the Central Bank of Nigeria released $265m in outstanding ticket sales.

And barely two months later, had the airline halted operations in the country, citing unsuccessful negotiations with Nigerian authorities over fund repatriation.

Etihad Airways also suspended flights to Nigeria in the same period.