The federal government of Nigeria has reacted formally to the issue of foreign airlines selling tickets to Nigerian passengers in dollars, saying such practice was in violation of the nation’s extant laws.
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika said the Nigerian government would not hesitate to punish identified erring international airlines selling tickets in hard currency.
He added that Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had been instructed to swing into action by protecting the interest of Nigerians against reported airlines’ operations malpractices, adding that no violator, no matter how highly placed, would be spared.
According to him, findings at government’s disposal, revealed that some of the airlines were refusing payment in naira and charging their ticket fares in dollars in violation of the country’s laws, while some others have blocked local travel agencies from accessing their websites for transactions, choosing to release expensive tickets.
He disclosed that the foreign airlines made over $1.1 billion from Nigeria in 2016, when the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration cleared the $600 million it inherited from previous government, saying if it was retained in the country through Nigerian official airline, it would have created jobs.
Sirika recalled that the airlines remitted over $600 million to their home countries in 2016, while over $265 million has also been released this year out of about $484 million due to them.
He said the government was trying to keep the airlines happy by ensuring that their money does not pile up again, saying while the country needs their services, the airlines need the Nigerian market.
The minister warned them to refrain from using the social media to press home their demands rather than resorting to the diplomatic channels.
He explained that government had only spent N651 million (N352 million and N299 million) for transactional advisory services approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), which he said was yet to be disbursed as the consultants were yet to finish their work.