The launch of Nigeria Air will remain paused after a lawsuit opposing the establishment of the new airline is expected to resume from March 22, 2023, according to local media reports.
The suit, which will take place in the Federal High Court in Abuja following its transfer from the Federal High Court in Lagos, will be resumed after stalling in February 2023, according to The Guardian.
The launch of Nigeria Air first faced opposing headwinds in November 2022, when local airlines in Nigeria lodged a court case to halt the partnership between the Nigerian Federal Government and Ethiopian Airlines (EA) over the ownership structure of the new flag carrier.
The ownership structure of Nigeria Air would see Ethiopian Airlines become a majority shareholder with a 49% stake after being selected as the preferred bidder for the establishment of the airline.
Within the remaining share, 46% would be held by Nigerian entrepreneurs and companies, namely MRS, SAHCO and the Nigerian Sovereign Fund, while 5% would be held by the Nigerian Federal government.
Azman Air, Air Peace, Max Air, TopBrass Aviation and United Nigeria Airlines, member airlines of the Airline Operators of Nigeria, were revealed to be the primary airlines leading the suit, which was filed on November 11, 2022, Nigerian daily newspaper PUNCH reported.
Nigerian Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami were listed as defendants in the suit.
Among the list of grievances, the local airlines demanded up to 2 billion Nigerian Naira ($4.3 million) 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) issued to Nigeria Air by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on June 3, 2022, claiming that the process did not undergo standard security clearance.
Five years on: Nigeria Air still to launch
Nigeria Air was first announced in July 2018 at the Farnborough International Airshow in the United Kingdom.
Initially the airline was expected to operate a fleet of five aircraft comprising Airbus A330s and Boeing 737s and had identified 81 routes with an aim to operate up to 30 aircraft within five years of commencing its operations.
However, opposition towards the establishment of the airline has caused the launch of the airline to be pushed back on multiple occasions.