The Federal government has urged Justice Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa of the Federal High Court in Lagos to transfer a suit filed by the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) seeking to stop the establishment of a proposed national carrier, Nigeria Air, to the Abuja division of the court.
The government, which cited jurisdictional issues as a major reason for the request, argued that some of the defendants who are not residents within the Judicial Division of the Honourable Court will be subjected to serious hardship in the event the suit proceeds to hearing.
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The application was filed by lawyers representing Nigeria Air, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
However, the Plaintiffs have put the court on notice that they will oppose the transfer of the case to Abuja as all the parties involved in this case are based in Lagos.
The five domestic airlines: Azman Air Services, Air Peace Limited, Max Air Limited, United Nigeria Airlines Company Limited, Topbrass Aviation Limited and the Registered Trustees of the Airline Operator of Nigeria are the plaintiffs in the suit.
While: Nigerian Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami are the defendants in the matter.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to stop the national carrier deal and withdraw the Air Transport Licence already issued to Nigeria Air by the Federal Government/Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.
The airlines are also claiming that the firm which served as Transaction Adviser for the transaction, was incorporated in March last year, alleging that the company is linked to the aviation minister.
They are also urging the court to award an N2bn against the defendants as damages for the injury they suffered and are still suffering as a result of their wrongful exclusion, wrongful action; unlawful bidding and selection processes and wrongful projection as not having properly, rightly and timely bid for the Nigeria Air project.
At the hearing of the case on Monday, Justice Lewis-Allagoa also frowned at recent publications concerning the application which is yet to be heard.
He subsequently adjourned the case to February 13 for the hearing of the application.
The airlines are also asking the court in their suit for an order directing the immediate, fresh and transparent bidding process(es) involving the Plaintiffs being the indigenous Airline Operators in Nigeria rightly entitled to participate in the process.
“An order directing the immediate revocation and cancellation of the Air Transport License (ATL) issued by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to the 1st Defendant.
“A perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, their agents, servants, officers, privies, and principals from perfecting, continuing and transferring the operations of Nigeria Air by the 3rd and 4th Defendants to the 2nd Defendant.
In an affidavit attached to the suit, the applicants stated that they amongst others, as private investors, took steps to partake in the bidding process but were blocked in an intricate web of politics & personal interests, designed to reach a contrived outcome inimical to the overall interests of the Nigerian State and its citizens.
“The second Defendant who is not a private entity but fully owned Ethiopian Government parastatal and its consortium who are majorly foreigners were discreetly allowed to be the sole bidder and winner of the purported bidding process.
“The bidding proposal is designed and structured to kill off domestic airlines and any possible form of competition through predatory ticket pricing, increase capital flight through the unfettered repatriation of funds by the 2nd Defendant as guaranteed by the draft Agreement and hurt the consumers, Nigerian people and the economy.”