A senior official with the International Air Transport Association revealed on Sunday that Nigeria is withholding $450 million in revenue that international carriers operating in the country have earned.

According to Reuters, Nigeria’s decision to withhold airline profits follows restrictions on access to foreign currency imposed on investors seeking to repatriate profits as the country faces a severe shortage of dollars.

Kamal Al Awadhi, the association’s vice president for Africa and the Middle East, described negotiations with Nigerian officials to return the money as a tense race that could hurt the country’s economy.

“We keep nibbling and hoping it will damage the country along the way,” Mr Al Awadhi said.

He revealed that Nigerian officials attributed the country’s reluctance to repatriate airline revenues to a lack of foreign exchange.

Following the Nigerian government’s failure to repatriate airline revenue, IATA has twice met with Nigerian officials, including the Central Bank, who Mr Al Awadhi says are ‘insensitive’ to the release of money .

However, the airline lobby group said the association would soon begin another round of talks with the Nigerian government.

“Hopefully we can find some sort of solution where it’s starting to go down (but) it won’t be, I doubt, paid off in one fell swoop,” Mr Al Awadhi said.

Nigeria had earlier restricted foreign airline revenue before repatriating it later.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), $1 billion in foreign airline-owned revenue is withheld across Africa, with Nigeria accounting for the highest amount of airline funds withheld on the continent.