Following Emirates’ decision to suspend its Nigerian services late last month, Nigerian Aviation Minister Sirika has urged the Dubai-based flag carrier to exercise restraint with its current approach, as reported by Vanguard.

Continued dispute

Speaking at a Senate Committee for Aviation led by Senator Biodun Olujimi earlier this week, Sirika highlighted the ongoing financial crisis within the country triggered by COVID-19 and the recession, slamming Emirates’ decision to stop flights despite having signed an agreement.

“Almost all countries except UAE understood, and we are trying to pay this money, but my concern is that countries go through war and problems, and there should be mutual understanding with each other,” said Sirika.

“We need their service, but they need our market more. We are assuring them that the money will be paid, but they should exercise restraint and treat Nigeria with value.”

It is the latest in a dispute between several international carriers and the Nigerian government following a lack of foreign currency trapping over $700 million in revenue within the country.

Emirates Boeing 777

Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Emirates paused flights to Lagos on October 29 after attempting to repatriate at least 80% of its $85 million blocked funds. In a media statement provided to Reuters, the carrier confirmed that ‘extraordinary circumstances’ had led it to implement measures to mitigate further losses within the country.

Sirika continued, emphasizing the importance of Nigeria’s rapidly developing aviation industry for the airline, adding that Emirates needs to treat Nigeria like a sovereign and a market.

Ongoing issues

In September, Nigeria’s Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) implemented fines for international carriers using a currency other than the Naira to sell flights amid ongoing foreign currency shortages.

After some pushback from carriers over the summer, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CNB) released $256 million in funds; however international airlines, including Emirates, could only access a total of $110 million. Since September, trapped funds have doubled from $346 million to $700 million, with the figure expected to rise even further.

Lagos Airport Take Off

Photo: Getty Images

IATA representative Samson Fatokun previously advised the government to uphold its contractual obligation to allow international carriers to access their funds given the mutual agreement to sell tickets in local currency, noting that the ongoing issues are portraying the country in a negative light to prospective investors.

Emirates is one of several airlines that has suspended services to the country. Delta Air Lines has paused its New York JFK-Lagos service citing loss of revenue. British Airways also briefly halted flights in August, though services have since resumed.

Hadi Sirik previously challenged Emirates and other foreign carriers to follow through on their threats to shut down services in the country at a stakeholder meeting in October.

“We are not afraid of being shut down. The country can thrive without the operations of foreign airlines,” Sirika noted.

We are not going to be intimidated in any way at all.”

What are your thoughts on the Nigerian government’s response to Emirates? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Reuters, Vanguard, The Guardian Nigeria, Premium Times Nigeria

  • Emirates, Airbus A380, Penultimate


    IATA/ICAO Code:

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Dubai International Airport

    Year Founded:

    Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum

    United Arab Emirates


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