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Nigeria Air Tussle: AON Kicks As FG Seeks Transfer Of Suit

LAGOS – The Federal Government and the Ministry of Avi­ation have sought the transfer of the case in­stituted against it on the planned establishment of a national carri­er project, Nigeria Air, to the Fed­eral High Court, Abuja Judicial Division, from Lagos.

But, a source close to one of the plaintiffs, confided in our correspondent on Saturday that the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) would kick against the transfer of the case away from Lagos to Abuja, suspecting a foul play.

The originating summons with the suit number: FHC/L/ CS/2159/22, filed against the government is expected to come up for hearing tomorrow (Mon­day) at the Federal High Court of Nigeria in the Lagos Judicial Division.

The plaintiffs are the regis­tered trustee of the Airline Oper­ators of Nigeria, Azman Air Ser­vices Limited, Air Peace Limited, Max Air Limited, United Nigeria Airlines and Top Brass Aviation Limited, while the defendants are the Nigeria Air Limited, Ethio­pian Airlines, Sen. Hadi Sirika and the Attorney General of the Federation.

But, the Federal Government, through its counsel, Liman Sulei­man Shehu, Maimuna L. Shiru (Mrs), Oyin Koleosho and Orio­wo Oluwaseun, filed the applica­tion on Friday, January 13, 2023, barely three days to the hearing on the summons.

An affidavit in support of motion on notice sworn to by Des-Bordes Felicia, counsel to the defendants, Nigeria Air (1st defendant), Sen. Hadi Sirika (3rd defendant) and Attorney General of the Federation (4th defendant), argued that hearing of the suit in Lagos would add financial bur­den on the defendants.

The 11-page application ob­tained by Sunday Independent at the weekend, only dwelt on the transfer of the case to Abuja by the court.
The counsel wanted the court to invoke Section 22, Federal High Court Act, LFN 2004, which em­powers it to transfer the suit out of Lagos to any other divisions, this time around to Abuja, for hearing.

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AON had on November 19, 2022 filed an originating sum­mons against the establishment of a new national carrier for Nigeria by the Federal Govern­ment after the liquidation of the former, Nigeria Airways.

With the originating sum­mons, the court was expected to review the submissions by all parties and give a particular date for ruling.

AON had called on the court to look at the extant laws and interpret such to know if the processes following the planned rebirth of a new national carrier for the country were not in vio­lation of the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The government through its defence, argued that all the defendants in the suit reside in and carry on substantial part of their business in the Federal Cap­ital Territory (FCT), Abuja, and wondered why the case should be heard in Lagos.

The counsel further argued that after the firm carefully stud­ied the originating processes filed by the defendants, it observed that the cause of the action al­leged by the plaintiffs occurred in the FCT, outside judicial division of where the suit was instituted.

The counsel added: “That the 1st, 3rd and 4th defendants who are not residents within the ju­dicial division of this honourable court will be subjected to serious hardship in the event this suit proceeds to hearing and prose­cuted within the judicial division of this honourable court wherein this suit is commenced.

“That the engagement of counsel to handle the instant case in the judicial division of this honourable court, which is outside all the defendants’ place of residence will attract huge amount of expenses on the part the defendants and that may like­ly affect the defendants’ proficien­cies to properly prosecute the suit to a logical and expeditious con­clusion and by extension, affects the course of fair hearing in the course of the trial.”

MegaMillions – MPU

However, a source close to one of the plaintiffs told our corre­spondent that the AON and other concerned parties might oppose the planned transfer of the case to Abuja from Lagos.

The source feared that this might lead to the manipulation of the case by the Federal Gov­ernment.

The source said: “Definitely, we will oppose the transfer of the case to Abuja. All the parties involved in this case are based in Lagos and AON’s office is also in Lagos.”

Recall that Ethiopian Airlines, the major partner in the Nigeria Air project, had on December 19, 2022, filed a defence at the Federal High Court in Lagos as a 2nd defendant against the AON, claiming ignorance of the model of the project.

The 37-page document of Ethiopian Airlines was sworn to by Wondwossen Beyene, the Country Manager of Ethiopian Airlines in Nigeria.

The airline argued that it bid­ed for the purchase of shares in the airline, just like other Nigeri­an shareholders.

Ethiopian Airlines further de­scribed the attempt by the AON to restrain it from participating in the national carrier process as an act of “malicious intervention by a meddlesome interloper.”

According to the airline, the Federal Government had agreed to sell 95 per cent of the shares, retaining only 5 per cent and invited 46 per cent of Nigerian investors, while the other 49 per cent was ceded to an internation­al airline.

Source: independent.ng

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