By Chinelo Obogo
Minister for Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has said that the Federal Government is working hard to resolve all issues created by the $464 million blocked funds belonging to foreign airlines from ticket sales.
Mohammed said this during a press conference held after a facility tour of the new Murtala Muhammed International Airport terminal, Lagos, on Monday.
The International Air Transportation Association (IATA), had last Thursday, expressed disappointment at the Federal Government over the inability of foreign airlines to repatriate $464 million accumulated from sale of flight tickets which has been trapped in Nigerian banks.
The global airline body said that the foreign airlines’ funds being blocked in Nigeria increased to $464million in July from $450 million in May, stating that the figure grew by $14 million.
To register its displeasure over the blocked funds, Emirates Airline had last week announced suspension of flights to Nigeria over its $85 million trapped in Nigeria with speculations that if the situation is not resolved, two more airlines may suspend operations by December.
Reacting to this however, the minister said the Federal Government is working on resolving the issue.
“On the trapped funds, I can tell you that the relevant authorities are working hard on that issue.”
Speaking on why the new terminal is yet to be fully utilised, he said: “There is a time between the commissioning of an airport and when the airport becomes operational. You know aviation is unforgiven of any mistake. So we need to test-run and be extremely certain that every equipment is working optimally. The beauty of it is that this airport has become operational. You can come in here and continue your journey to various parts of the world.
“When the old airport was commissioned, it took quite a while for it to become operational. The new international terminal is not to replace the old one but to complement it. It is gradual and very soon this airport will be very busy.”
Also speaking on the operations of the new terminal, the Managing Director of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Capt. Rabiu Yadudu, said that by September 1, five airlines will start operating at the new terminal.
Meanwhile, Yadudu has denied reports that FAAN has increased landing and parking charges, insisting that the rate has remained the same since 2012.
“On the area of the operations of airlines, aviation is a very sensitive business. We will rather take our time than to start on the wrong footing and that does not mean nothing is being done. From September 1, which is in the next two weeks, five more airlines are scheduled to start operations in the new international terminal.