Nigerian local airlines sue government, Ethiopian Airlines over Nigeria Air deal

Anna Zvereva /

Eight of Nigeria’s domestic airlines have sued the Nigerian Federal Government and Ethiopian Airlines (EA) over their partnership to establish a new national carrier, Nigeria Air.  

The airlines asked the court to halt the government’s national carrier deal with Ethiopian Airlines, which saw the airline become a majority shareholder with a 49% stake after being selected as the preferred bidder, according to Nigerian daily newspaper PUNCH.  

The airlines argue that the partnership will put Nigeria’s domestic airlines out of business by opening their market Ethiopian airlines, the report continues. Among the list of grievances, the airlines have demanded an order of up to N2bn in damages for “wrongful exclusion” and an unlawful bidding and selection processes for the Nigeria Air project.  

The local airlines also requested the withdrawal of the Air Transport Licence (ATL) already issued to Nigeria Air by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), claiming that the process did not undergo standard security clearance.  

Azman Air, Air Peace, Max Air, Topbrass Aviation and United Nigeria Airlines, Member airlines of the Airline Operators of Nigeria, were revealed as the primary airlines leading the suit filed on November 11, 2022.  

Nigerian Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami we’re listed as defendants in the suit. 

The selection of Ethiopian Airlines as the preferred bidder for Nigeria Air 

In September 2022, Nigeria’s Federal Government announced Ethiopian Airlines (ET) Consortium as one of the main investors to partner with the government to launch its new flag carrier, Nigeria Air.   

Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika explained that Ethiopian Airlines was the only airline to respond to the government’s requests for an expression of interest in the Nigeria Air project, even after extending the period where interest could be submitted, according to the PUNCH.  

“We did not cede Nigeria Air to Ethiopian Airlines. It is the only airline in the world that made $1bn profit even during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the most prosperous, efficient and leading airline in the African continent, and it was the only airline that responded to our request for partnership to run the airline after many months of advertisement of expression of interest,” Sirika said.  

“Even after some interested persons asked Nigeria to extend the time of EoI and we did, none of them showed interest. Officials of the Ministry of Aviation led by me personally visited some of the leading airlines across the world and pleaded with them to take up the partnership with Nigeria to set up the airline,” Nigeria’s Aviation Minister added.  

“None of them signified interest except Ethiopian Airlines, which has been allotted 49 per cent shares, while Nigerian institutional investors take up 45 per cent and the Federal Government will take up only five per cent,” Sirika added.  


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