Emirates Airlines has explained reasons for the demand of credit card payment from Nigerians travelling to Brazil.
The Dubai-based airline, at a meeting with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) two days ago, said the policy would checkmate growing activities of Nigerian drug cartels on the Brazilian route.
This development is coming at a time the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) says it has recorded and arrested 4,838 drug trafficking suspects comprising of 4,490 males and 348 females, within the first half (H1) 2016.
In 2015, the NDLEA arrested 8,778 suspected drug traffickers comprising 8,143 males and 635 females, and majority were on the Brazilian route.
Meanwhile, the airline has started the refund of fares to passengers affected by the new policy, which took effect September 22, 2016. Recently, the airline left some Nigerian passengers behind on the ground that they bought Lagos-Dubai-Rio tickets in naira, rather than via credit card.
The action, which violates Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) directive and Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) between Nigeria and other countries, as contained in Article 8 (4), has been described as a subtle rejection of the naira.
Emirates’ officials, however, said despite their challenges with repatriation of funds, the policy was not a rejection of the local currency. A source at the meeting said NCAA officials accepted the reason of drug trafficking and noted that efforts to curtail it were genuine.
The source said: “The airline noted that drug trafficking is becoming rampant on that route. Emirates discovered there have been series of airplane diversions on the route. This is on account of airborne passengers feeling sick and the aircraft having to divert, to save their lives.
“The sick passengers often turn out to be drug traffickers, made sick by the substances they were trafficking. And this is always happening to Nigerians.
“To detect the culprit, the airlines’ headquarters in Dubai had introduced credit card as mode of payment, to know who is who through electronic data. That helps Emirates know who is eligible to go to Brazil and those that should not be given a chance. It is their strategy to curb drug traffickers, not an attempt to reject the naira.”
The NDLEA also disclosed that the Brazil-Nigeria route had become notorious for cocaine smuggling.