Sirika disobeying court orders by floating Nigeria Air, Domestic

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Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), an umbrella body of domestic airline operators in the country, have stated that the continuous insistence by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, to float Nigeria Air is in flagrant disobedience of court orders.

In a statement on Friday, AON spokesperson, Obiora Okonkwo, tackled Sirika’s attempt to ensure Nigeria Air was commissioned before his tenure ends on May 29 despite a court order restraining the national carrier from operating.

This week, Sirika had announced that Nigeria Air will take delivery of aircraft meant for operation ahead of the planned commissioning of the national carrier, as he insists that nothing would stop the launch.

Okonkwo said Sirika is acting contrary to what the court ordered. Recall that after several technical delays, Nigeria Air was supposed to be commissioned in December 2022, but the domestic airlines filed a lawsuit to restrain the Minister, Nigeria Air and its technical investor, Ethiopian Airlines, from commencing operation.

This delayed the commissioning, and the AON has also obtained a court order preventing the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) from handing Nigeria Air the Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC).

Speaking on Sirika’s actions, Okonkwo said: “All of these statements and actions are in flagrant disobedience of the orders of the federal high court of Nigeria which halted the said moves by the minister to float the said airline until the determination of the substantive suit brought by AON against it.

“We make bold to respond because of the myriad of inquiries from concerned and patriotic Nigerians and industry stakeholders who have either called or sent messages over the minister’s comments.

“For the avoidance of doubt, AON welcomes the establishment of more airlines in Nigeria for we believe that the skies are big enough to accommodate all. However, AON is against any contraption that is shadowy and not in the best interest of the country.

READ ALSO: Again, Nigeria Air misses sixth takeoff date as court case continues

“We need the outgoing minister to come forward, defend, and counter the very damning submissions in our suit.”

Sirika deceiving Nigerians, risks contempt of court

The AON in the statement said Sirika’s actions could attract a charge of contempt of court, stating that he is also deceiving Nigerians in a bid to have Nigerian Air operational 72 hours before his 7-year tenure ends.

“It is very disturbing that a minister is desperately hoodwinking the entire nation into accepting a massively flawed process just 72 hours to the end of his 7-year tenure in office as minister of aviation even as the courts have halted him,” the group said.

The statement reads further: “The aviation minister is aware of the different court orders against him and Nigeria Air. He should be aware that he is courting a charge of contempt of court as he is not above the law and can not freely disregard the courts.

“AON is also aware, like the minister and promoters of Nigeria Air, that the process of acquiring airline operating certificate (AOC) for Nigeria Air is only at stage one contrary to his televised statement that the Nigerian Air AOC process was at stage five.

“The world is watching the regulator, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on Nigerian Air and its AOC. The NG Eagles’ AOC is equally a matter for another day.”

Nigeria Air’s aircraft arrival means nothing

Okonkwo said the arrival of the aircraft for Nigeria Air doesn’t change anything, as Sirika cannot proceed with any action toward the airline.

Until the order against him, Nigeria Air and promoters of the national carrier, is vacated, AON said Nigeria Air can’t be commissioned, “Therefore, an aircraft flying into Nigeria and bearing Nigerian colours does not change anything,” AON stated.

“Furthermore, the fact that the minister has just a few more days left of his time in office, makes it necessary that promoters of the airline, if they exist, other than Sirika, should be talking to Nigerians, telling them what they ought to know and answering relevant questions about their stakes in Nigeria Air.

“Hadi Sirika knows that until the order is vacated, the ministry of aviation cannot proceed with any action toward the airline,” the domestic airline operators clarified.

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