Emirates has put all flight operations in to and out of Nigeria on hold as the airline has been unable to repatriate funds out of the country.
Emirates had decided to reduce its flights to Lagos, Nigeria, due to the country's inability to release funds that are being withheld by the government. Emirates has stated that the funds, totaling $85 million, have been increasing in amount by $10 million every month. Now they have no choice but to stop completely.
Nigeria Wants to Hold on to the Money That's Not Theirs
Nigeria has struggled with currency devaluation against the dollar as the country derives a bulk of its foreign exchange through crude oil sale. Nigeria's crude business has taken a big hit due to oil theft in producing communities. The government also has a high debt burden due to large subsidies for fuel.
As a result, Nigeria has been restricting access to foreign currency due to a shortage of dollars.
It's all somewhat complex, but the bottom line is this: Emirates (and other carriers) cannot take their money earned in Nigeria and transfer it (rightfully) to their own country.
Emirates Says Nigeria is Stonewalling Them
Emirates has reportedly tried 'every avenue' to resolve their situation and access their funds but the Nigerian government apparently is not willing to cooperate at this stage.
"Emirates has tried every avenue to address our ongoing challenges in repatriating funds from Nigeria and have made considerable efforts to initiate dialogue with the relevant authorities for their urgent intervention to help find a viable solution. Regrettable there has been no progress."
The International Air Transport Association has said that Nigeria was holding onto $450 million in revenue from foreign carriers operating in the country back in June. This money is being withheld by the Nigerian government, and the IATA is urging it to release the funds. The reason for the delay is unknown, but the operators are hopeful that the money will be released soon.
I'm told that Nigerian routes are profitable. But when you have to deal with this, is it worth it? Nigeria has a long history of corruption. This can hardly be a surprise.