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Nigerian planes arrive today but local airlines don't want Sirika to launch Nigeria Air

For planning to launch the carrier despite the court order, the domestic airline operators threaten to sue the minister for contempt of court.

The Ministry of Aviation is set to take delivery of two aircraft as it prepares to launch Nigeria Air. [Quartz]

The minister is launching the project despite resistance from the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) and a restraining court order on the project.

As a result, lawyers of the domestic airline operators have written a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari asking him to stop Sirika from violating the court order.

The airline operators argued that the minister’s plan to take delivery of the planes and launch their operations on the last working day of his administration could be an attempt to “cover up the various infractions of Nigerian laws, among others.”

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For planning to launch the carrier despite the court order, the domestic airline operators threaten to sue the minister for contempt of court.

Recall that in November 2022, local airline operators including Azman Air, Air Peace, Max Air, Topbrass Aviation, and United Nigeria Airlines sued the Federal Government over its national carrier deal with Ethiopian Airlines.

The airline operators claimed that the licence issued to Nigerian Air did not pass through the normal security clearance, adding that the firm which served as Transaction Adviser for the deal was linked to the minister of aviation.

They also argued that the Federal Government’s partnership with Ethiopian Airlines would send local airlines out of business.

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So, in a letter signed by their lawyers led by Abubakar Nuhu Ahmad of Nureini Jimoh Chambers, the local airline operators reminded President Buhari that they filed the suit last year “to question the shady deals, deliberate infractions of the Nigerian laws and self enrichment/ corruption mainly by the ministry of aviation over Nigeria Air project.”

They said the launching of Nigeria Air by Sirika is a last-minute planned disobedience to court order and a deliberate attempt to rubbish the achievement of Buhari’s administration.

They, therefore, urged the president to stop the minister’s action, saying flying two aircraft in Nigeria Air livery ‘is a clever way to violate court orders.’

The letter reads in part, “In the suit, the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos presided by Hon. Justice A.L Allagoa, in the above suit, granted Orders of interim and interlocutory injunctions, in the terms contained in the Order, restraining taking of any step in relation to the Nigeria Air project. Copy each of the Orders are enclosed as Annexures 1, 2 & 3.

“As your Excellency is well aware, the administration will hand over on Monday May 29, 2023 but the Honourable Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, is planning to circumvent the Court Orders on Friday 26th May 2023 being the last working day of this administration and possibly to cover up the various infractions of Nigerian laws, amongst others.

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“We, therefore, employ your Excellency to stop this action of the Minister of Aviation, ensure compliance with the terms of the order and avoid needless controversies on the action after your Excellency’s administration would have expired”.

The domestic airline operators maintained that for the promotion of the rule of law and protection of the integrity of the court, they would sue the minister of aviation whether he leaves office or not.

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