The Central Bank of Nigeria has described claims by some airlines that they are unable to access foreign exchange to repatriate the proceeds of their operations as untrue.
A number of airlines operating on international routes from the country had claimed that their inability to access forex was hampering their operations and was responsible for the increase in airfares, in some cases by as much as 100 per cent.
But the CBN said it had been selling forex to the airlines through the commercial banks at the interbank rate.
The spokesperson for the apex bank, Isaac Okoroafor, told our correspondent on the telephone that anyone in doubt as to whether the airlines had been accessing forex or not should go through the published statements of sale by the banks.
"The scarcity of forex is not peculiar to Nigeria. It is the same situation in most commodity-dependent economies, especially those that depend on oil. So, what we have been doing is to prioritise the sale of forex. The airlines may not be having enough, but that is not enough reason for them to begin to increase airfares arbitrarily," he said.
The CBN spokesperson lamented that in spite of the access of the airlines to forex, there had been an alarming hike in the cost of flight tickets.
According to him, it is curious that while business class fare used to be as low as N600,000, some of the airlines now offer it for close to N2m.
He explained that the central bank's method of making forex available had been to identify key sectors and industries that would drive growth and curtail excessive forex demand.
"What is not possible is for the CBN to meet just any demand by some of the airlines. We all need to understand that there is no way we will collect all our reserves to satisfy just few businesses, while other ones suffer," Okoroafor said.
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