By Sade Williams/Business a.m.
Hadi Sirika, the aviation minister, had beat his chest last week that no law in Nigeria could stop the new national carrier, Nigeria Air, from taking to the air. But that was only short lived as it only took a Federal High court sitting in Lagos to grant an interim injunction restraining the ministry from going ahead with the execution of the proposed carrier, after domestic operators in the country sought the court’s intervention over the new airline.
Sirika had said at a stakeholders appreciation forum in Lagos for the reconstruction of Lagos airport runway 18L, that the federal government was going ahead with establishing a national carrier despite the subsisting suit challenging the project.
He insisted that aviation stakeholders and unions had sufficient time to participate in the process and cannot stall the project with legal suits. He said he does not see the possibility that any court of competent jurisdiction will erect a roadblock to the emergence of the national carrier.
The minister said he personally and individually engaged indigenous carriers to participate in the project, including Air Peace, Azman Air and Max Air, but they turned down the invitation because it was not formal.
“I have been very transparent in the processes put in place to deliver the national carrier. If anyone wants to invest in a company, no one can stop them from investing. You can own a company 100 percent. If anyone wants to invest, why not? We want foreign direct investment,” the minister said.
He described as totally unacceptable and unfair for stakeholders to claim that they have not been carried along on the national carrier project, adding that anybody who is parading such information is working contrary to the actualisation of the aviation road map.
“Every information or documents pertaining to the project is domiciled at the ministry of aviation and Infrastructure Construction Regulatory Commission which are driving processes leading to the national carrier,” Sirika had explained.
However, this did not deter some airline operators from making good their threat to halt the establishment of the airline.
After hearing the submission of their Nureini Jimoh, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), the court on careful consideration of the application and submission of counsel ordered an 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 an agreement by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Azman Airlines, Air Peace, Max Air, United Nigeria Airlines and Top Brass Aviation, the plaintiffs, sort from the Federal High Court, Lagos, a perpetual injunction to restrain the defendants (Nigeria Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, Attorney General of the Federation), their agents, servants, officers, privies, and principals from perfecting, continuing and transferring the operations of Nigeria Air by the 3rd and 4th Defendants to the 2nd Defendant.
They declared in the suit that the action, conduct, and or decisions in the sale of the shares and operations of the 1st Defendant (Nigeria Air) is in violation of 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 Organisation (ICAO) Convention, Civil Aviation Act, Public Procurement Act, Concession Regulatory Commission (Est.) Act, 2005, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, Procurement Processes for Public Private Partnership in the Federal Government under the National Policy on Public Private Partnership (N4P) and Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations, 2015, and other regulatory statutes on aviation, companies, and investment laws in Nigeria.
They also declared that the entire administrative actions and decisions of the 3rd (Sirika) and 4th Defendants (Attorney General of the Federation) in the sale of the shares of the 1st Defendant to the 2nd Defendant and its consortium is invalid, void, and of no effect.
They equally declared that the 2nd Defendant (Ethiopian Airlines) was incompetent to bid for shares in the 1st Defendant and commence business accordingly.
The plaintiff prayed 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 the 2nd defendant by the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Defendants in the process.
Other prayers are for 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.
They equally sought an order of N2,000,000,000.00 (two billion naira, only) 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.