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Gbajabiamila makes case for local airlines

Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila says there is need for local airlines in Nigeria to be given a level playing ground as their foreign counterparts in the aviation sector.

Mr. Gbajabiamila who made the remark at a meeting with Aviation Stakeholders in Abuja said the meeting focused on issues affecting domestic airlines as well as blocked funds for foreign airlines.

“Foreign airlines are exploiting Nigerians to the extreme! Nigerians should not be allowed to be exploited for things they know nothing about”, Chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Nnoli Nnaji said.

Spokesperson, Airlines Operators of Nigeria, Prof Obiora Okonkwo accused foreign carriers operating in Nigeria of charging fares at prevalent parallel market foreign exchange naira to dollar rate.

He noted that the cost of tickets are already high and that foreign airlines converting tickets with the parallel markets rates instead of the Central Bank rates makes tickets even higher.

Prof Okonkwo who said the cost disparity killing local airlines, however debunked claims that foreign airlines funds were blocked as even local airlines could not access their funds due to inaccessibility to foreign exchange.

The spokesman added that the only support the sector enjoyed due to the Covid-19 was $4 billion from the Nigerian government, which is grossly inadequate compared to the support other countries gave their airlines.

Chief Executive Officer of an airline, Allen Onyema stressed that Nigerian airlines were not against foreign airlines repatriating their funds, but that Nigerians must begin to destigmatise.

Area Manager, West & Central Africa of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dr Samson Fatokun noted that $700 million airlines fund are trapped in Nigeria as the nation’s account policy was driving aviation investors away.

The speaker adjourned the meeting to Thursday, promising to invite the CBN governor to address the issues of foreign exchange.

Reporting by Ibrahim Shehu; Editing by Muzha Kucha