Nigeria: Court Suspends FG, Ethiopian Airlines Partnership

About eight domestic airlines sued the FG to court over the matter

A Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday issued an order of interim injunction restraining the Nigerian government from proceeding with the establishment of its proposed national carrier.

TheCable reported that the temporary injunction was given in a suit marked FHC/L/CS/2159/2022 and filed by registered trustees of the Airline Operators in Nigeria (AON), Azman Air Services Limited, Air Peace Limited, Max Air Limited, United Nigeria Airline Company Limited, and Top brass Aviation Limited, the plaintiffs.

It said Justice A. Lewis-Allagoa who granted the order on Friday, November 12, 2022, ruled that an Order of Maintenance of Status Quo by all the parties in the suit restrained them from taking any further step(s) in relation to the subject matter of the suit pending when the determination of the Motion on Notice is granted.

About eight domestic airlines sued the FG to court, listing Nigerian Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, as defendants.

Among other prayers, the airlines want the court to stop the national carrier deal and withdraw the Air Transport Licence already issued to Nigeria Air by the Federal Government and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.

In the originating summons of the suit, the plaintiffs formulated five questions for the court to determine, one of which is to determine “whether the entire process for the sale and transfer of shares of the 1st defendant to the 2nd defendant and its consortium by the 3rd and 4th defendants is in line with the provisions of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (Est.) Act, 2005, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Convention, the National Policy on Public Private Partnership (N4P), sections 76-81 of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, and does not affect the entire process including the selection, approval or grant to the 2nd defendant and its consortium by the 3rd and 4th defendants is not invalid and thereby entitling the entire process to fresh bidding exercise?”

The plaintiffs, therefore, prayed the court to declare that “the entire administrative actions and decisions of the 3rd and 4th defendants in the sale of the shares of the 1st defendant to the 2nd defendant and its consortium is invalid, void and of no effect”.

The plaintiffs also sought “… a declaration that the 2nd defendant was incompetent to bid for shares in the 1st defendant and commence business accordingly.

“An order setting aside the entire bidding/selection process(es) for the “Nigeria Air” project as well as the approval, grant or selection of the 2nd defendant by the 1st, 3rd and 4th defendants in the process.

“An order directing the immediate, fresh and transparent bidding process(es) involving the plaintiffs being the indigenous Airline Operators in Nigeria rightly entitled to participate in the process.

“An order directing the immediate revocation and cancellation of the air transport license (ATL) issued by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to the 1st defendant.”

National Carrier

Nigeria Air is the nation’s proposed national carrier which was unveiled at the Farnborough Air Show in England on July 18, 2018.

The project was suspended two months after it was announced after critics raised concerns over its relevance and sustainability. The proposed airline was expected to gulp $8.8 million in preliminary cost and $300 million as take-off cost.

The national carrier idea was raised many years after Nigeria’s defunct carrier, Nigeria Airways, collapsed due to corruption and poor management.

Last July, the Federal Executive Council approved the leasing of three aircraft to enable the airline to commence operations.

In September, Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika said at a press briefing in Abuja that Ethiopian Airlines emerged as a core investor in Nigeria Air with a 49 per cent shareholding.

“After a careful, detailed and ICRC-governed selection process, Ethiopian Airlines (ET) Consortium has been selected as preferred bidder, offering an owner consortium of 3 Nigerian investors MRS, SAHCO and the Nigerian Sovereign Fund (46 per cent), FGN owning 5 per cent and ET 49 per cent,” Mr Sirika said.

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