Nigeria will allow its currency, the naira, to trade freely against the US dollar from June 20, following a move by several international airlines to stop flights into the country.
In March, IATA estimated Nigeria owed foreign airlines some NGN113.3 billion ($575 million), principally because of government-imposed currency controls.
IATA regional manager Samson Fatokun said Nigeria is in the top two countries with the biggest airline debts worldwide.
“The inability of airlines to access forex [foreign exchange] in Africa’s largest economy, if not solved, will affect air transport services to, from and within Nigeria and undermine the country’s position as West Africa’s aviation hub,” IATA said in a statement.
Fatokun said IATA is “engaging government … and [it] is giving the aviation the best possible attention the sector deserves.”
In May, Spain flag carrier Iberia ceased flights and US-based United Airlines said they would end daily flights to Lagos, Nigeria. United CEO Oscar Munoz said flights to the country had become “untenable” because of outstanding debts.
Local media reports said both British Airways and Emirates have acknowledged outstanding debts.
Nigeria’s central bank has maintained an official exchange rate of NGN197 to $1, while black market exchange rates have reached just below NGN400 to $1 since the oil price slump began.