January 15, (THEWILL) – The controversies surrounding the Nigeria Air project are far from being stopped, as the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), has kicked against the transfer of the case, which it filed against the Federal Government and the Ministry of Aviation.
The case hinged on the proposed establishment of a national carrier; Nigeria Air, from Lagos to the Federal High Court, Abuja Judicial Division.
THEWILL learnt that domestic airline operators in the country have kicked against the move by the Federal Government and Aviation Ministry because it suspected that there is more to it than meets the eye.
The transfer sought by the Federal Government and the Aviation Ministry is coming just as the originating summons with the suit number: FHC/L/ CS/2159/22, filed against the government comes up on Monday, January 16, 2023, at the Federal High Court of Nigeria in Lagos.
The plaintiffs in the case 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.
The defendants are Nigeria Air Limited, Ethiopian Airlines, Sen. Hadi Sirika and the Attorney General of the Federation.
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, for the transfer of the case 72 hours to the hearing on the summons.
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), contended that the hearing of the suit in Lagos would add financial burden on the defendants.
The Counsel to the defendants, in a document obtained by THEWILL, prayed the court to invoke Section 22, Federal High Court Act, LFN 2004, which empowered it to transfer the suit out of Lagos to any other divisions, this time around to Abuja, for hearing.
Recalled that AON had on November 19, 2022, filed an originating summons against the formation of a new national carrier for Nigeria by the Federal Government several years after the liquidation of the former, Nigeria Airways Limited (NAL).
AON had prayed 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.
However, the Federal Government through its Defence Counsel, contended 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 hence the case should be heard in Abuja instead of Lagos.
The lawyer to the Federal Government also contended that after a careful study of the originating processes filed by the plaintiffs, it observed that the cause of the action alleged by the plaintiffs occurred in the FCT, outside the judicial division of where the suit was instituted.
“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 a huge amount of expenses on the part of 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,” the Defence Counsel argued.
From all indications, AON is not favourably disposed to transfer the case from Lagos to Abuja, as the body fears that it may work against the interest of the body and other parties.