By Blessing Anaro
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has assured that Nigerians will not buy flight ticket in dollars, and he has pleaded for patience from the public.
Fielding questions yesterday at the federal government-organised town hall meeting in Lagos, Amaechi said the air ticketing payment process may be “a bit complex” at the time but the country will not buy in dollars.
“We in the ministry have heard about it and we plead with you to give us time; Nigerians will not buy tickets in dollars,” Amaechi said.
“It is not a legal tender here. If any airline does that, please let us know so we can call the airline to order.”
Over the past six to 10 months, international airlines operating in the country have complained about the difficulties of redeeming their naira earnings in dollars to repatriate to their home countries.
International airlines are said to have over a billion dollars equivalent of naira “stuck” in Nigeria, which has not been redeemed, due to lack of foreign exchange at the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Changing their naira at the parallel market would amount to at least 33 per cent loss for the airlines, which expected to have their naira redeemed in dollars at N197 to $1.
Investigations revealed that this inability to repatriate funds is one of the basic reasons why some of the airlines are increasing fares, receiving payment in dollars, downsizing operations or totally suspending Nigerian operations.
“Many of the airlines now ask us to pay in dollars, which we find difficult to do, because we don’t get our clients to pay in dollars,” a travel agent, who asked not to be named, said.
“We fear that very soon, it would become official; they would no longer hide it but charge in dollars via their websites or at the airport. If that doesn’t work, they may resort to hiking prices to parallel market equivalent of the dollar or to pulling out of the country.”
However, CBN says it has continually made forex available to the airlines through their banks.
Just recently, Iberia, Spain’s largest airline, announced the suspension of Nigerian operations due to drop in demand and profitability, with plans to ply Johannesburg, South Africa instead.
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