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Gbajabiamila urges airline operators to resume services

The speaker of the house of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has urged airline operators to resume full services to Nigerian travelers.

Mr Gbajabiyamila made the call during a second round of meetings with stakeholders in the aviation sector, aimed at resolving the dispute over $700 million in trapped funds belonging to foreign airlines in the country.

The Speaker told foreign airlines to “put on hold for now” their threat to suspend flight operations by October 28 or make flight bookings for Nigerian travelers a nightmare.

“We are here to protect you and at the same time uphold the integrity of Nigeria,” he told them.

“Give us a couple of months to see what we can do to reduce the backlog with the help of the CBN,” He appealed.

The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr Godwin Emefiele, said a sum of $265 million had been earmarked for disbursement to the foreign airlines through their various banks.

Key stakeholders at the meeting all agreed that while the CBN was making efforts to raise the money, the foreign airlines were to reciprocate the gesture by respecting the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) signed with Nigerian carriers on the number of flight slots allowed into their own countries from Nigeria.

The meeting also resolved that reducing the flight frequencies of the foreign airlines would give Nigerian operators a chance to compete favourably in the market and would in the long run reduce the number of foreign airlines whose funds are trapped in the country.

In attendance at the meeting were principal officers of the House; members of the House Committee on Aviation; the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika; Governor of the Central Bank, Mr Emefiele; representatives of the foreign airlines/AITA; representatives of the Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON); and representatives of travel agencies.

Reporting by Ibrahim Shehu; Editing by Abdullahi Lamino and Tony Okerafor