Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika

Why court stopped FG from selling Nigeria Air’s shares to Ethiopian Airlines

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The Federal High Court sitting Lagos on Tuesday issued an order of interim injunction restraining the Federal Government from executing the proposed establishment of the national carrier Nigeria Air.

But the Federal Government, through its Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, declared on Tuesday that no law in Nigeria could stop the national carrier project.

Justice Lewis Alagoa in his ruling dated November also ordered parties in suit to maintain status quo pending the determination of the Motion on Notice.

Justice Alagoa also ordered an accelerated hearing of the suit.

The plaintiffs, the Registered Trustees of the Airline Operators of Nigeria, Azman Air Services Limited, Air Peace Limited, Max Air Limited, United Nigeria Airlines Company Limited, and Topbrass Aviation Limited, had in a suit marked FHC/L/CS/2159/2022, prayed the court to stop the defendants, the Nigeria Air Limited, Ethiopian Airlines, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Siriki, and the Attorney General of the Federation from implementing the said agreement.

The plaintiffs in their Motion Ex parte dated 10th day of November, 2022, prayed the court for the following orders: “An order of interim injunction restraining the Defendants either by, “themselves, agents, privies, principals or any other persons whosoever from executing the proposed or draft National Carrier Establishment and Agreement between the Federal Government of Nigeria, (represented by the 3rd and 4th Defendants) and the strategic equity partner (the 2nd Defendant) or giving effect to, and or suspending the sale and transfer of the shares & operations of the 1st Defendant by the 2nd Defendant pending the determination of the Motion on Notice.

“Maintenance of status quo by all parties in this suit from taking any further step(s) in relation to the subject matter of this suit pending the determination of the Motion on Notice.

“Accelerated hearing of this suit, and for any other or further orders as this Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances of this case.”

After reading the Affidavit in support of the Motion sworn to by Ewos Iroro, and hearing the submission of counsel for the plaintiff/applicant, Nureni Jimoh, with Abubakar Nuhu Ahmad, the court held, “That an Order of Interim Injunction is granted restraining the Defendants either by themselves, agents, privies, Principals or any other persons whosoever from executing the proposed or draft “National Carrier Establishment and Agreement Between the Federal Government of Nigeria (represented by the 3rd and 4th Defendants) and the strategic equity partner (the 2nd Defendant) or giving effect to and or suspending the sale and transfer of the shares & operations of the 1st Defendant by the 2nd Defendant pending the determination of the Motion on Notice.

“That an Order of Maintenance of Status Quo by all parties in this suit from taking any further step(s) in relation to the subject matter of this suit pending the determination of the Motion on Notice is granted.

“That an Order of Accelerated Hearing of this suit is granted.”

The plaintiffs among other prayers want the court to stop the national carrier deal and withdraw the Air Transport Licence already issued to Nigeria Air by the federal government/Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.

They also claimed that the firm which served as transaction adviser for the transaction was incorporated in March last year and alleged that the company was linked to the aviation minister.

The local airlines further alleged that the ATL issued to Nigeria Air did not pass through the normal security clearance.

According to them, the federal government’s partnership with Ethiopian Airlines on the project would send domestic airlines out of business by opening up the domestic air travel market to Ethiopian Airlines.

Meanwhile, Sirika has insisted that the federal government would not go back on the plan to establish the national carrier.

Speaking during a stakeholders’ appreciation forum for the reconstruction of Lagos airport Runway 18L, Sirika said aviation stakeholders and unions had sufficient time to participate in the process rather than engaging in legal suit to stall the project.

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