Paschal Emeka, Abuja
The leadership of the House of Representatives has intervened in the lingering dispute between Nigeria and foreign airlines over the controversial “trapped funds” belonging to the airlines.
After a meeting presided by the Speaker of the House, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, in Abuja and attended by representatives of the airlines, International Air Transport Association (IATA), Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON), travel agencies and other aviation industry stakeholders, some understanding was reached to find quick solutions to release the huge sums owed the airlines.
More importantly, AON, at the session, made a strong case for the protection of the interests of Nigerian airlines in foreign countries, especially the issue of reciprocity in the number of flight slots allocated to Nigerian operators in other countries, compared to the high number foreign airlines enjoy in Nigeria.
The meeting also discussed the disparity in ticket prices charged by the foreign airlines in Nigeria and other countries, with Nigerians paying higher even when the distance between Nigeria and the foreign country of destination is shorter when compared to the distance from other African countries.
The meeting, which also looked into the difficulty Nigerians face in assessing the portals of foreign airlines for flight bookings, later adjourned till Thursday, October 20 to get the input of the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on how to fast-track the release of the trapped funds.
The Speaker, however, emphasized the need for all the parties involved to make a commitment to end the crisis by addressing the various issues raised by different stakeholders and restoring peace to the industry, especially with regard to international flight operations.