National Airline: Federal Government, Domestic Airline Operators Kick off Legal Battle On Thursday

By Damilare Adeleye

The Federal Government has mobilised a team lawyers to challenge the suit filed by domestic airlines seeking to stop the establishment of a proposed national carrier-Nigeria Air.

According to Punch, the legal team of the government and a 10-man group representing the domestic airlines would meet in court on Thursday in Lagos over issues pertaining to government's choice of Ethiopian Airline as national carrier of Nigeria.

Recall that domestic airlines had taken the Federal Government and Ethiopian Airlines-its foreign technical partner and majority shareholder- to court seeking to stop the national carrier project.

The 10-man legal team representing the domestic airlines are Nureini Jimoh, SAN; Prof. A.B. Ahmad; Prof. Y.B Hassan; Emmanuel Dike; Habiba Nuhu; Ashraf Yusuf; Abubakar Nuhu; Zainab Maiyaki; Opeyemi Ajekigbe; and U.F Abdullateef.

The hearing for the suit between the Federal Government and domestic airlines is expected to commence on Thursday, November 24, 2022.

Officials of domestic airlines close to the suit confirmed the suit is slated for a hearing on Thursday.

“The battle begins on Thursday. Our lawyer has confirmed to us the suit will be heard on Thursday, November 24, 2022. The Federal Government lawyers will also be coming to represent the government. Our team of lawyers will be present,” a top official of a local carrier who chose to speak on condition of anonymity stated on Monday.

“After the court hearing on Thursday, the Federal Government will be expected to file its comprehensive defence within one month. Failure to do that means it won’t have the opportunity again,

When reached, the Managing Director of Top Brazz Aviation, who is listed on the court paper, Mr Roland Iyayi, said he believes the domestic carriers have a strong case the court will decide upon.

He said, “We are absolutely prepared to pursue this. Based on what we presented to the court, we believe we have a very strong case. On the basis of the documents that we have presented, we believe we have a very strong case.”

Iyayi further explained, “Domestic airlines are not averse to having a national carrier. What we are saying is that the structure and the design that is being put together by the Honourable Minister of Aviation is a bit of an issue which we believe is not going to help the Nigerian state in a long term.

“We have also come to find out that there are undue privileges that are going to be given to this new carrier which domestic airlines are not enjoying. For instance, the government is proposing a 15-year tax moratorium. This is not a national carrier that is being presented, this is simply a flag carrier. We believe that ultimately, the Nigerian public will not benefit. There will be unfair competition.

“These are the issues we took to court, asking the court to determine whether or not we have a case. Already, ET has listed Nigeria Air as its subsidiary on its website. We are talking about unfair competition, contrived outcomes, lack of transparency and undue privileges that will ultimately result in a distorted market. At the end of the day, we will decimate the domestic market to the detriment of the consumers. In the absence of being unable to sit around a table to negotiate, we are left with no other choice but to go to court before it becomes too late.”