The move to establish the national carrier, Nigeria Air, has suffered a temporary setback as a Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday has granted.
The court granted the order following a motion ex-parte issued by some airline operators under the registered trustees of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON).
The airlines comprising Azman Air, Air Peace, Max Air, United Nigeria and Top Brass Airlines had filed a suit at the court to stop the national carrier project.
Sirika spoke in Lagos during the stakeholders’ appreciation forum for the completion of the installation of Airfield Lighting at the Murtala Muhammed Airport runway 18L.
The AON members in suit number FHC/L/CS/2159/2022 challenged the decision of the federal government to select Ethiopian Airlines as the preferred equity partner for the national carrier, holding 49 pa er cent controlling share of the airline.
Listed as defendants one, two, three and four respectively in the suit are Nigeria Air Limited, Ethiopian Airlines, Senator Hadi Sirika and the Attorney General of the Federation.
The court presided over by Justice A. Lewis-Allagoa, however, granted an order of interim injunction stopping the execution of the project while at the same time giving an order for an accelerated hearing of the suit.
After “careful consideration of the application and submission of counsel, the court granted “an Order of Interim Injunction restraining the Defendants either by themselves, agents, privies, Principals or any other persons whosoever from the proposed executing or draft “NATIONAL or CARRIER ESTABLISHMENT AND AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA (represented by the 3rd and 4th Defendants) and the 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.”
The court also granted an Order of Maintenance of Status Quo by all parties in this suit from taking any further step(s) about the subject matter of this suit pending the determination of the Motion on Notice.
Sirika had said the federal government is going ahead with establishing a national carrier despite the subsisting suit challenging the project.
Sirika 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.
He said, “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 per cent. If anyone wants to invest, why not? We want foreign direct investment.”
Sirika stated that it was unacceptable and unfair for stakeholders to claim that they have not been carried along on the national carrier project.
“Every information or document about the project is domiciled at the ministry of aviation and Infrastructure Construction Regulatory Commission which are driving processes leading to the national carrier,” Sirika said.
“If I have my way, those structures from the local airport to Bristow will be demolished tomorrow and pave the way for the emergence of a befitting airport city. Would you not like to see shopping malls, befitting car parks and other support facilities like you find in other parts of the world?” he said.