NIGERIA currently owes international airlines, including three in Africa, $743 million in blocked funds, making the country the second highest withholder of such funds in the world after Venezuela.
A recent survey by the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) showed that the three African airlines alone have about $44.2 million blocked in Nigeria.
These three have a total of $88.9 million blocked in 12 African countries at the end of 2022, AFRAA said.
Apart from Nigeria, other African countries with blocked funds at the end of 2022 were: Algeria, Libya, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Conakry, Burundi, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
AFRAA said it was continuing its advocacy on blocked funds.
‘It is unacceptable for some states to hold on to airline generated revenues that is badly needed to cover operating costs and yet expect operations to continue undisrupted,’ said AFRAA Secretary General Abderahmane Berthé,
‘The longer these funds are held, the bigger the financial burden these states impose on airlines supporting air connectivity and economic activities in these countries.’
Meanwhile AFRAA has slammed Sierra Leone for its proposed 1,400 per cent increase in Airport Development Charge, which would be borne by passengers.
The civil aviation authorities have revised the Aviation Security Charge and Foreign Travel Tax, including a revocation of Foreign Travel Tax for ECOWAS member countries.
‘This is a shot in the foot for a country that needs air connectivity to facilitate trade, business and general socio-economic development,’ Berthé said.
In March, President Julius Maada Bio commissioned a new terminal at Freetown International Airport at Lungi, which is situated across the Sierra Leone River.
Turkish construction company Summa built the 150,000 square feet terminal, five times the capacity of the old facility, at a cost of $270 million, and will recoup this under a 25-year management contract before handing it over to the government.
Regarding the running of the airport, an aviation analyst told Africa Briefing that it was likely that Summa would be looking to ‘maximising its earnings in the shortest time possible, and sell the management contract for a huge fee even before it expires in 25 years’ time’.
‘Given the way international contracts involving Sierra Leone, such as in the mining industry, have been regularly chopped and changed as governments changed, one could understand Summa’s position,’ the analyst said.