There is palpable tension in Nigerian Avia-sphere following the withdrawal of 14 airlines from Nigeria over the lingering hike of foreign exchange (forex). gathered that the affected airlines withdrew their services from the country due to low patronage on account of the economic recession.

Some of the affected airlines include United Airlines, Iberia and Air Gambia.

These are among some 50 airlines that plied the Nigerian routes not so long ago.

It was also gathered that foreign firms, so far, have lost 64 billion Naira while trying to repatriate stuck funds amidst the forex crisis.

The mass repatriation is coming in the wake of the new forex policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

President of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Bankole Bernard lamented the withdrawal.

He said that the new forex policy and economic crunch came with enormous negative effect on travel agencies.

He cited new forex policy as the reason for which the airlines exited the country.

Bernard blasted the economic policies of the CBN at the Aviation Round Table (ART) breakfast meeting held in Lagos recently.

He said that travel agencies that sold about $1.4 billion worth of air tickets in 2015 were beginning to record losses with the departure of the airlines.

He added that there was fear that more airlines might quit flying the Nigerian routes.

Apparently frustrated by the low patronage, he said that some of his members were beginning to consider relocating to Ghana, where “their policies are consistent.”

Bernard said that the alleged inconsistent policy of the current administration, particularly on the naira devaluation, accounted for the current “nightmarish” experience the airlines are facing.

The loss of N64b by the foreign airlines was on account of repatriating $800 million stuck in the economy in the last one year, but released after the recent devaluation of the naira.

With the devaluation, the accumulated $800million from airlines’ sales of tickets when the exchange rate was still at N197 to $1, was taken out of the country at the new rate of N320 to $1.

Consequently, a substantial amount was lost in the last couple of weeks.

Confirming the development, the Regional Manager of British Airways, Kola Olayinka, said that for every $1m repatriated since the new policy began, the airlines lose not less than N80 million.

Olayinka blamed the situation on what he called the immediate and unfortunate effect of the new policy.

The policy, he said, is affecting all foreign airlines that had funds sitting in the Nigerian banks.

The current administration last year introduced a fiscal policy through the CBN, restricting access to foreign exchange and funds transfer out of the country.

In the process, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimated that no less than $600 million belonging to foreign airlines was stranded in Nigeria.

The association appealed to government to ensure the immediate release of such funds.

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