Emirates (EK, Dubai International) has suspended flights to Nigeria for the second time since September citing an ongoing inability to repatriate its blocked funds and to mitigate against further losses on Nigerian routes.

In a statement shared with ch-aviation, the airline said it had no choice but to suspend operations indefinitely from October 29 following several unsuccessful meetings with the Nigerian government on ways to clear a backlog of blocked funds.

“Emirates has continued to actively seek a solution for the repatriation of the remainder of its blocked funds in Nigeria. We were encouraged by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s efforts in reviewing our request and considered that this critical issue would be swiftly resolved with the subsequent clearance of our remaining funds. However, Emirates has yet to receive an allocation of our blocked funds to be repatriated. Without the timely repatriation of the funds and a mechanism in place to ensure that future repatriation of Emirates’ funds does not accumulate in any way, the backlog will continue to grow, and we simply cannot meet our operational costs nor maintain the commercial viability of our operations in Nigeria."

The airline said it had officially communicated its position and attended multiple hearings with the Nigerian government. It had also proposed a plan for the progressive release of its funds. "This included the repatriation and receipt of at least 80% of our remaining blocked funds by the end of October 2022, in addition to providing a guaranteed mechanism to avoid future repatriation accumulation challenges and delays."

"We hope to reach a mutual resolution with the Nigerian government around the repatriation of blocked funds to enable the resumption of operations and connectivity for travellers and businesses,” the airline said.

Emirates operated 21 frequencies a week to Nigeria: twice daily to Lagos and once daily to Abuja.

Nigeria's Aviation Ministry made no official comment.

Emirates only reinstated flights to Nigeria on September 11 after suspending flights on September 1 in protest over the country withholding USD85 million of its revenue. This came after the Central Bank of Nigeria released USD265 million to international airlines to settle outstanding ticket sales.