In the latest development concerning the establishment of Nigeria Air, Ethiopian Airlines (ET) CEO Mesfin Tasew, has confirmed that the new proposed flag carrier is ready for launch, however, only one obstacle remains.
In a podcast interview on April 13, 2023, with Avia Dev Insight Africa’s host and CEO, Jon Howel, Tasew confirmed that “excellent progress” had been made towards Nigeria Air’s establishment and that ET had already agreed “on nearly all terms” with all stakeholders in the new carrier.
“We have already agreed with all the consortium of shareholders who will participate in setting up the airline [and] we have also reached [an] agreement with the Nigerian government on nearly all terms,” said Tasew.
“So now we’re ready to start [the] airline except there is one obstacle,” highlighted Tasew.
“That obstacle is a court case,” continued Tasew.
The obstacle blocking Nigeria Air’s launch
Ethiopian Airlines CEO explains that the court case hindering Nigeria Air’s start involves a group of smaller Nigerian airlines that filed a suit, resulting in a temporary order to suspend the establishment of Nigeria Air.
The suit, filed on November 11, 2022, opposed the proposed partnership between Ethiopian Airlines and the Federal government of Nigeria, where ET became a majority shareholder in Nigeria Air with a 49% stake after being selected as the preferred bidder to establish the airline.
The airlines, namely Azman Air, Air Peace, Max Air, Topbrass Aviation and United Nigeria Airlines, member airlines of the Airline Operators of Nigeria, argued that the partnership would put Nigeria’s domestic airlines out of business by opening their market to Ethiopian airlines.
Among the list of grievances, the airlines demanded an order of up to N2bn in damages for “wrongful exclusion” and unlawful bidding and selection processes for the Nigeria Air project.
The ownership structure of Nigeria Air consists of Ethiopian Airlines as a majority shareholder with a 49% stake, while Nigerian entrepreneurs and companies, namely MRS, SAHCO and the Nigerian Sovereign Fund hold a 46% stake. The remaining 5% stake is held by the Nigerian Federal government.
Nigeria Air lawsuit expected to rule in favour of its establishment
The outcome of the lawsuit is expected to rule in favour of establishing the new flag carrier.
“We expect the court case will be closed in the coming few weeks in favour of establishing their line. We want to go there to enable Nigeria to have a strong national carrier that can provide a dependable service within the country and also to provide an alternate service for Nigerians between Nigeria and the major destinations they want to travel,” highlighted Tasew.
Nigeria Air to improve connectivity between Nigeria and Europe
According to Tasew, ET flies to four cities within Nigeria, primarily connecting Nigeria to the rest of Africa and Asia.
However, Tasew hinted that one of the objectives behind Nigeria Air is to “fulfil the air transport requirement of the people domestically and their connectivity with Europe.”
“We don’t have connectivity between Nigeria and Europe [and it’s] a long way to [travel] through Addis Ababa,” said Tasew.
“Still, there are many Nigerians who travel to Europe through Addis Ababa for their own reasons, but it’s not very convenient route. The new flag carrier will be able to fly directly between Nigeria and Europe. That is the missing link. And it will be the responsibility of the flag carrier and not Ethiopia,” Tasew emphasized.