The National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, on Tuesday, called on the Federal Government to utilize a crude oil swap to settle the backlog of over $600 million in foreign airlines funds trapped in the country.

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The union stated that the development which has turned the nation’s image negatively globally if not addressed now poses a major threat to the employment and livelihood of thousands of workers.

NUATE made this call in a letter signed by its General Secretary, Ocheme Aba, titled: ‘Foreign Airlines’ Trapped Dollars: A Looming Catastrophy – Call For Extraordinary Action’ and addressed to the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika.

It reads: “The ugly situation of hundreds of millions of dollars earned by foreign airlines operating into Nigeria, but which they have been unable to repatriate due to Nigeria’s foreign exchange challenges has already been blown out by local and foreign media, bringing colossal collateral damage to Nigeria’s image.

“And we find it ineluctable to weigh into the matter, being the trade union to which all workers in the foreign airlines belong. As such our stake in this imbroglio is, without question, much higher than most other stakeholders.

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“We feel obliged to mention the threat to the employment and livelihood of thousands of workers of these foreign airlines should there result in further significant reductions, or outright shutdown, of operations of these airlines. We must also mention the concomitant losses (not excluding jobs) that would accrue to several service providers who are dependent on, almost entirely, foreign airlines – ground handling, inflight catering, logistics, aviation security, etc. This, unfortunately, is already visible from the reductions in operations that have come into effect in the past weeks resulting from the impasse.

“It is important to state that we are very mindful of current difficulties being experienced by the State with regard to the acute shortage of foreign exchange earnings. We also recognize that there are no straight fixes available. But, in view of the apparent calamity that will surely befall the nation if the situation is not ameliorated quickly enough, we urge you to prevail on the Federal Government to take extraordinary measures to resolve the quagmire. Such a measure could include the use of a crude oil swap to defray the backlog in the first instance.

“Please, do not be covered by the enormity of this, and other, problems presently mitigating the sector’s projected growth. We offer our hand of support, whatever that counts, at this very trying time. We equally make ourselves available for any stakeholders meeting convened to address the matter.

“While awaiting urgently needed results, you may count on our highest regards as always.”