The legal battle over Nigeria Air resumes today at the Federal High Court in Lagos as the federal government makes frantic efforts to vacate the order stopping the establishment of the airline.
However, as the case resumes today, there is a new dimension as the federal government has filed an application for the transfer of the case to Abuja.
The government has promised that the new national carrier would start operation in December this year but that was stalled by the suit filed by some members of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON).
The plaintiffs are the registered trustees of the AON including Azman Air Services Limited, Air Peace Limited, Max Air Limited, United Nigeria Airlines and Top Brass Aviation Limited, while the defendants are Nigeria Air Limited, Ethiopian Airlines, Sen. Hadi Sirika and the Attorney General of the Federation.
They approached the court on November 16, 2022, to stop the Nigeria Air project.
The court ordered an injunction, restraining the defendants, either by themselves, agents, privies, principals, or any other persons whosoever from executing the proposed or draft national carrier establishment and an agreement by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
On Friday, December 11, the presiding judge, Justice Lewis Allagoa, reaffirmed the order and adjourned the case till today (January 16, 2023).
But a new dimension was introduced when the federal government through its counsel, Liman Suleiman Shehu, Maimuna L. Shiru (Mrs), Oyin Koleosho and Oriowo Oluwaseun, on Friday filed an application for a transfer of the case to Abuja.
An affidavit in support of the 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.
In seeking the transfer of the case, the government through its defence counsel noted that all the defendants in the suit reside in and carry on a substantial part of their business in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, and challenged the hearing of the case in Lagos.
The counsel added 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 the judicial division 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 hear and prosecuted within the judicial division of this honourable court wherein this suit is commenced.”
Meanwhile, government sources say they are optimistic about the vacation of the pending injunction which stopped further action on the establishment of the national carrier.
“Until the court vacates that order, we cannot do anything on the national carrier in deference to the order of the court. Our legal team is doing its work and we are hoping the injunction will be vacated,” the source said. (Daily Trust)