Justice Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa of a Federal High Court in Lagos has granted an interim injunction restraining the Federal Government and Ethiopian Airlines from proceeding with the establishment of a proposed national carrier, known as, Nigeria Air Limited.
Nigeria Air is expected to be launched with three Boeing 737-800 aircraft. The scheduled take-off is in December.
The restraining order was sequel to the granting of an ex parte motion in a suit marked FHC/L/CS/2159/2022 filed by The Registered Trustees of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) and five others in the aviation industry.
The judge also ordered all parties to the suit to maintain the status quo.
The five other plaintiffs in the suit are; Azman Air Services Limited, Air Peace Limited, Max Air Limited, United Nigeria Airlines Company Limited and Topbrass Aviation Limited.
The first to fourth defendants are Nigeria Air Limited, Ethiopian Airlines, Sen. Hadi Sirika (Minister of Aviation, Federal Ministry of Aviation) and the Attorney-General of the Federation.
The judge granted the application as prayed after reading an affidavit in support of a motion sworn to by the Assistant Secretary of the Registered Trustees of the Airline Operators of Nigeria, Mr. Ewos Iroro and after hearing the submission of plaintiffs’ counsel Nureni Jimoh (SAN).
Justice Lewis-Allagoa held: “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 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.
“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.
“An order of accelerated hearing of this suit is granted.”
The plaintiffs in their originating summons filed through Jimoh, are asking the court to cancel the Air Transport License (ATL) issued by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to the newly formed Nigeria Air.
They are also praying the court to set aside the entire bidding/selection process(es) for the “Nigeria Air” project as well as the approval, grant or selection of Ethiopian Airlines by Nigeria Air Limited, Minister of Aviation and the Attorney-General of the Federation in the process.
They alleged that the firm which served as Transaction Adviser for the transaction was linked to the Aviation Minister.
They are seeking eight reliefs including a declaration that the action, conduct and or decisions in the sale of the shares and operations of the 1st Defendant violates several laws including the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020, SEC Nigeria Consolidated Rules & Regulations 2013 (as amended in 2022), Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) Act, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Convention, Civil Aviation Act, and Consumer Protection Act and other regulatory statutes on aviation, companies and investment laws.
“A declaration that the entire administrative actions and decisions of the Aviation Minister and the AGF in the sale of the shares of the Nigeria Air to Ethiopian Airlines and its consortium is invalid, void and of no effect.
“A declaration that Ethiopian Airlines was incompetent to bid for shares in Nigeria Air 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 Ethiopian Airlines 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.
“An order of N2 billion as damages for the injury suffered by the plaintiffs and still suffering as a result of the wrongful exclusion of the plaintiffs, wrongful action; unlawful bidding and selection processes and their wrongful projection of the plaintiffs as not having properly, rightly and timely bid for the Nigeria Air project.
“A perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from perfecting, continuing and transferring the operations of Nigeria Air by the Aviation Minister and AGF to Ethiopian Airlines.”
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