In a stunning turn of events, Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, announced today that a Nigeria Air aircraft is scheduled to land in the country tomorrow, defying a subsisting court order. This significant milestone marks the beginning of operations for the proposed carrier, despite ongoing legal challenges.
Speaking on a television interview with Channels Television, Minister Sirika assured the public that the aircraft would be unveiled in Nigeria’s national colors, fulfilling the promises made by the administration in the aviation sector. While addressing the nation, he acknowledged that the only remaining incomplete item is the aerotropolis, which refers to the airport city and is currently 60 percent complete. The minister expressed hopes that the next administration would conclude the work on the airport city.
During an aviation stakeholder’s forum held in Abuja back in March, Sirika had declared that Nigeria Air would commence full operations before the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. Responding to inquiries about the exact start date, he confidently stated, “Before the end of this administration, before May 29th, we will fly.”
However, it is worth noting that several airlines, including Air Peace, Azman, Max Air, United Nigeria Airlines, and Top Brass Aviation Limited, had taken legal action against the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, the Attorney General of the Federation, Nigeria Air, and Ethiopian Airlines to halt the establishment and operation of the national carrier.
In a motion filed on November 10, 2022, the plaintiffs sought an interim injunction from the court to restrain the defendants from executing the proposed establishment of the “National Carrier” and suspending the sale and transfer of shares and operations. The Federal High Court reaffirmed its injunction order on December 9, 2022, and maintained it until the determination of the motion filed by the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) seeking to stop Nigeria Air.
The court’s injunction reads, “An Order of Interim Injunction is granted restraining the Defendants from executing the proposed ‘National Carrier Establishment and Agreement’ or giving effect to or suspending the sale and transfer of shares and operations of the airline.” Furthermore, an Order of Maintenance of Status Quo was issued, preventing all parties involved from taking any further steps in relation to the subject matter until the motion is determined.
The unfolding situation poses a legal and operational dilemma for the aviation industry in Nigeria. As the Nigeria Air aircraft prepares to touch down, the clash between the court order and the government’s determination to proceed raises questions about the rule of law and the potential consequences of defying a judicial directive.
As the story develops, aviation stakeholders, legal experts, and the public await further updates on this controversial and contentious issue.