The Federal Government (FG) said it will penalize foreign airlines that sell tickets to Nigerians in dollars, citing a violation of Nigerian law.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika made this known after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting which was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa in Abuja.
According to Sirika, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has been directed to take action in order to protect the interests of Nigerians against malpractices, warning that no violator, no matter how high-ranking, will be spared if caught in violation.
According to his findings, the government discovered that some airlines refused naira and charged their ticket fares in dollars, in violation of the country’s laws.
According to the minister, some foreign airlines have blocked local travel agencies from accessing their websites for transactions, instead releasing expensive tickets.
“I want to use this opportunity to say that reports are reaching us that some of the airlines are refusing to sell tickets in naira. That is a violation of our local laws, they will not be allowed.
“The high and the mighty amongst them will be sanctioned if they’re caught doing that,” Sirika said.
“NCAA had been directed to swing into action and once we find any airline violating this, we will definitely deal with them.
“Also, they blocked the travel agents from access. They also made only the expensive tickets available and so on and so forth.
“Our regulators are not sleeping, we have a very vibrant Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.
“Once they found any airline guilty, that airline will be dealt with because we need to protect our people.
“It is according to our agreements, to what we have signed and this is according to international convention.
“So going forward, they should desist from doing things that are outside of the law. They should also desist from writing to us and putting things on social media.
“They should go through diplomatic channels if they want a response from the federal government.”
The minister also revealed that foreign airlines made more than $1.1 billion from Nigeria in 2016, when Buhari’s administration cleared the $600 million it inherited from the previous administration, and that if it had been retained in the country through the Nigerian official airline, it would have created jobs.
Sirika stated that they had released over $265 million this year out of a total of $484 million.
He stated that the government is attempting to keep the airlines happy by ensuring that their money does not accumulate again, stating that while the country requires their services, the airlines require the Nigerian market.
The minister warned them against using social media to press their demands rather than diplomatic channels.
Sirika stated that FG only spent ₦651 million (₦352 million and ₦299 million) on transaction advisory services for Nigeria Air.
He denied a report that the airline project had consumed over ₦14.6 billion in government funds despite holding only a 5% stake.
“So Nigeria Air is, of course, we are going to come very soon to council for approval of the full business case.
“And the activity is a Public Private Partnership, which is guided by the ICRC regulations, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission,” he added.