January 28, 2023

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NIGERIA AIR BIRTH PANGS: AON Suit, a “malicious intervention by a meddlesome interloper”- ET

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Barrister Abubakar Malami, Nigeria’s Attorney General And Minister Of Justice

As the over 200 million Nigerian population look up to the judiciary as the last bastion for justice on social and economic issues, especially if such issues impinge on the national interest yet, the recourse to the temple of justice by the Airline Operators Of Nigeria, AON, who is one of the plaintiffs, has been described by one of the four defendants, Ethiopian Airline, as a “malicious intervention by a meddlesome interloper”

The plaintiffs which are, the regis¬tered trustee of the Airline Oper¬ators of Nigeria, AON, Azman Air Ser¬vices Limited, Air Peace Limited, Max Air Limited, United Nigeria Airlines, and Top Brass Aviation Limited, had approached the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, to determine if the entire “prenatal” procedures for bringing to birth a national airline was adhered to by the defendants.

According to the originating summons, the defendants are Nigeria Air Limited, Ethio¬pian Airlines, the Ministry of Aviation/Sen. Hadi Sirika and the Federal Ministry of Justice/Attorney General of the Federation.

The plaintiffs also sought that the entire procedures for birthing the national airline be on hold until the final determination of the suit and the parties should return to their status ante until the final determination of the suit. Those prayers the court had graciously granted.

Hence, Ethiopian Airlines, in a manner akin to her prompt approach to business which explained its successes in air transport, on 19th December 2022, filed its defense against the suit at the Federal High Court in Lagos, as the 2nd defendant in the case.

L-R Chairman AOn, Dr Zarina and Sen Hadi Sirika, Aviation Minister

In the 37-page defense document filed by ET, on the suit number FHC/L/CS/2159/2022, and sworn to by its Country Manager in Nigeria, Mr. Wondwossen Beyene; the airline refuted nearly all the prayers of the plaintiffs but revealed circumstances as to the tax holiday sought among others.

Ethiopian Airlines, in its defense, averred that it was not aware that the project was under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme, but insisted it was absolute.

The ET defense was also vehement that the airline, AON, which sued it and other defendants, did not participate in the process. And therefore, wondered if AON had any moral right to challenge its emergence when it refused to bid on the project.

Hence it dubbed the resolution of Nigeria’s airlines’ umbrella association, Airline Operators of Nigeria, AON, recourse to the court of justice as a “malicious intervention by a meddlesome interloper.”

FRESH TWIST

The Federal Government had last Friday, 13th January 2023, approached the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, and submitted an affidavit in support of a motion on notice, sworn to by Des-Bordes Felicia, counsel to the defendants, requesting for the transfer of the hearing to an Abuja High Court.

Counsel to the 1st, 3rd, and 4th defendants namely, Nigeria Air, Sen. Hadi Sirika, and the Attorney General of the Federation respectively, prayed that hearing of the suit in Lagos would add financial bur¬den on the defendants and as such, another court of competent jurisdiction in Abuja will suffice.

This request by three of the four defendants will undoubtedly earn the attention of the court to resolve before the originating summons and defenses therefrom are heard.

All stakeholders look forward to te resolution especially of the latter prayers in the court today.

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1 thought on “NIGERIA AIR BIRTH PANGS: AON Suit, a “malicious intervention by a meddlesome interloper”- ET

  1. The action of the defendants in this case was to deliberately delay court proceedings in the case. If the matter is eventually transferred to the FCT High Court. The matter can’t be addressed on the same date fixed by the Federal High Court Lagos. Even if the matter is transferred to Montreal for adjudication. The primary objective of the plaintiffs is to buy time and delay the matter from taking off. Either way, without taking legal action against the defendants particularly the minister did not get sufficient time between now and four months and two weeks when his tenure is expected to be wined down on May 29th, 2023. I’m arriving at this conclusion because the minister was sued as Sen. Hadi Sirika, not as a minister of aviation.

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