A Federal High Court in Lagos, on Thursday, stopped the establishment of the proposed national carrier – Nigeria Air, by the Federal Government.
Justice Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa reordered the Federal Government and domestic airlines to maintain status quo in their suit relating to the establishment of airline.
The judge made the order pending the determination of the suit filed by the Registered Trustees of the Airline Operators of Nigeria and five others in the aviation industry.
The four other plaintiffs include Azman Air Services Limited, Air Peace Limited, Max Air Limited, United Nigeria Airlines Company Limited and Topbrass Aviation Limited, who were the first to sixth plaintiffs.
The first to fourth defendants include Nigeria Air Limited, Ethiopian Airlines, Senator Hadi Sirika (Minister of Aviation, Federal Ministry of Aviation) and the Attorney-General of the Federation.
This came as the Federal Ministry of Aviation declared on Thursday that it would deploy every necessary step to vacate the order that had stopped the ongoing work towards to establishment of the national airline.
Thursday’s event at the court was in line with The PUNCH’s exclusive report on Tuesday which revealed that lawyers representing the Federal Government and Ethiopian Airlines would battle at the Federal High Court.
After series of legal work, the judge, on Thursday, ordered that the national carrier should be halted and subsequently adjourned the case till February 2023. Our correspondent who was at the court reported the story.
Also, a fresh suit was instituted by one of the Chief Executive Officers of the domestic carriers, Captain Edward Boyo, seeking the name of the Board of Registered Trustees of the Airline Operators of Nigeria to be removed from the suit on the grounds that members of the association did not agree to sue the Federal Government over the national carrier project.
Two “intervenors/applicants” filed an application begging the court to strike out the name of The Registered Trustees of the Airline Operators of Nigeria as a party in a suit, arguing that its inclusion in the suit “is invalid”
On November 15, 2023, the court granted the plaintiffs an interim injunction restraining the Federal Government and Ethiopian Airlines from proceeding with the establishment of Nigeria Air Limited.
Justice Lewis-Allagoa also ordered all parties to the suit to maintain the status quo following the plaintiffs’ motion ex parte in Suit FHC/L/CS/2159/2022.
At the resumed hearing of the matter on Thursday, Nureni Jimoh, SAN, appeared for the airline operators.
Jimoh’s bid to move his motion on notice for an injunction against the defendants was opposed by Seun Oriowo, for Nigeria Air and Minister of Aviation; Raji Rasaki, for the AGF, and Ajibola Salisu for the intervening applicants.
The judge turned down Rasaki’s argument for an adjournment for lawyers from the AGF’s Abuja office to take over the defence, rather than those from its Lagos office.
Bassey Attol, for Ethiopian Airlines, informed the court that he had filed a response to Jimoh’s application, while Salisu’s prayer for an adjournment was opposed by Jimoh, on the ground that “the intervening applicants are not a party to this suit. They are interlopers here to disrupt proceedings.”
In his ruling, Justice Lewis-Allagoa held, “I’ve reviewed all the applications before me. In the circumstances, the proper thing to do is for the parties to maintain the status quo pending the determination of this suit.”
The two intervenors/applicants, in their November 23, 2022 application seen by The Punch include Capt. Edward Boyo, and Capt. Nogie Meggison.
They prayed for an order “striking out the name of the 1st Plaintiff (The Registered Trustees of Airline Operators of Nigeria) as a plaintiff in the suit, for want of due authorisation and/or sanction from the Registered Trustees qua National Executive Council of the Association.”
Among the grounds for their prayer was that “there was no meeting of either the members, the National Executive Council or the Board of Trustees of the 18 plaintiff wherein any decision/resolution was taken to institute this present suit.
“The decision/resolution and/or authorisation of the National Executive Council comprising the Registered Trustees is a condition precedent to the proper institution of any suit in the name of the 1st plaintiff.
“The inclusion of the 1st plaintiff as a party to this suit is invalid.”
Consequently, the judge adjourned the case till February 13, 2023.
Meanwhile, while reacting to the order of the court on Thursday, the media aide to the Minister of Aviation, James’s Odaudu, told one of our correspondents that the ministry was law abiding but would do what was necessary to vacate the order.
“If the court ruled that the status quo should remain, we are law abiding citizens,” he said.
When told that the aviation minister recently said no court would want to stop the national carrier project, Odaudu replied, “A lot people misinterpreted what he (Sirika) said, by reporting that the minister said no court can stop the airline.
“The minister did not say no court can stop the establishment of a national carrier. Rather he said no rational court would stop the establishment of such airline in Nigeria.
“This means that the courts have it at their discretion. So it is wrong to say the minister said no court can stop it. He did not say so.”
The minister’s aide, who served as the immediate past Director of Communications at the Federal Ministry of Aviation, further stated that the FMA would take all required steps to contend with the court order.
“But, of course, the ministry or the government will also take whatever step that is necessary to vacate it (the order),” Odaudu stated.
The PUNCH reported on Tuesday that the Federal Government had assembled a legal team to challenge the suit filed by domestic airlines seeking to stop the establishment of the national carrier.
The PUNCH had also exclusively reported on November 14, 2022, that the national carrier project might be stopped by the court as domestic airlines had taken the Federal Government and its foreign technical partner and majority shareholders to court.
Domestic airlines had alleged that the sale of shares of the proposed airline violated the Companies and Allied Matters Act, as well as that of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Subsidy: Nigerians Indict NNPC, Accuse Successive Govts Of Complicity
Nigerians have called on the Federal Government to be more decisive with the issue of subsidy for petroleum products in the overall interest of the masses.
Participants at a weekly discussion programme of the African Media Hangout, a platform made up of a group of diverse media professionals made the call weekend.
Discussants at the weekly programme included Professor Tony Afejuku of the University of Benin, Benin City; Pa Patrick Omhonriawho; a Publisher, Oray Osawe, and a retired News Agency Nigeria Editor, Mr. Celsius Ohain, among others.
In his contribution, Prof Tony Afejuku of the University of Benin identified Nigeria’s major problem as that of leadership, which according to him is the cause of the “subsidy woes.”
While calling on journalists to carry out their watch dog role by doing more investigation in the mystery behind fuel subsidy in Nigeria, Prof. Afejuku urged citizens to protest against fuel problem (scarcity) which he said has become a source of trauma, pains to Nigerians.
He said: “Nigeria has only one huge problem. What is this huge problem? The huge problem of leadership. It is the cause of our subsidy woes.
With or without subsidy Nigeria will be the progressive country we want it to be if we have the right leadership; if our political leaders are political leaders and not political rulers.”
Another contributor with the username Mr Oyo said fuel subsidy is not the problem but “issue of greed and pursuit of wanton wealth at the expense of Nigerians by the country’s petroleum company, the NNPC and its management.”
Questioning Why the NNPC should be the sole importer of fuel since Nigeria fails to refine her crude, Mr. Oyo said: “Until Nigeria refines her crude locally, the solution lies in deregulation of the market so that importers can set up an independent monitoring body.”
On his part, ORay Osawe, Publisher, Navigator Newspapers, also accused the NNPC of defrauding the nation’s treasury with the payment of subsidy.
He added that since successful governments have failed to stop the payment of subsidy, it means the government itself is complicit in the fraud.
He asserted: “The NNPC has feasted on the governments’ magnanimity and is defrauding the Nigerian people in the subsidy payment.
“The problem is that top government officials are colluding with the NNPC to rape the Nigerian masses in the name of subsidy.
“This explains why successive governments lack the political will to stop the subsidy by not breaking the NNPC’s monopoly. In essence governments has been complicit, especially with a President overseeing the Petroleum Ministry.”
Also contributing to the discussion, Elder Patrick Omhonriawho popularly called PGO viewed the problem of subsidy from multiple perspectives, saying “leaders slow pace of decision making with a bicameral legislature; lack of leadership and corruption in every facets of government are a major banes.”
He added: “Our leaders slow pace of decision making with a bicameral legislature has not helped matters. This is visible in contract awards for building roads, bridges, fuel depots and rail lines.
“Lack of leadership and corruption in every facets of government is a major issue.” (Sic)
On his part, Elder Celsius Ohain, a retired Editor of News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) posited that “Fuel subsidy has become somewhat of a mysterious phenomenon in Nigeria because of the aura of secrecy and controversy that surrounds it over the years.”
According to him, “as a nation, our ‘subsidy’ does not seem to meet that acceptable universal stand but has instead become a means to bleed the nation financially.”
While noting that many persons who condemned subsidy while seeking power do the same thing when they get to power, the media practitioner urged government to fix the nation’s refineries so as to stop the importation of fuel cum subsidy.
He added: “Successive governments have done exactly the same thing they condemned on their journey to power, thus making ‘subsidy’ a jinx the nation has found it difficult to extricate itself from.
“Few years ago, there was a subsidy probe and cans or rather, drums of worms were exposed about people getting paid for importing ‘fuel’ with non-existent vessels on high seas.
“The critical question is: Why continue to import finished products when our refineries which remain in comatose could be fixed to enable local refining and export of finished product?
“Why can’t the Warri, Port Harcourt and Kaduna refineries come to life? These are begging questions. Suffice it to say that successive governments have shown lack of political will to do the needful as the lure of ‘free monies’ flowing therefrom is too attractive to ignore.”
Nigeria’s infrastructure quality low, says World Bank
The World Bank has described the level and quality of infrastructure in Nigeria as low despite the Federal Government’s claim of borrowing to finance infrastructure.
In its Nigeria public finance review report, the World Bank said that Nigeria’s physical infrastructure gap would likely reach $3tn in the next 30 years.
The report read, “The level and quality of Nigeria’s infrastructure quality is low, with the country ranked 132 out of 137 countries for infrastructure in the 2018 Global Competitive Index. Nigeria’s physical infrastructure gap is estimated to reach $3tn over the next 30 years.”
It added that Nigeria’s development outcomes were among the lowest globally, which indicated high public spending needs.
The Washington-based bank also noted that it would take Nigeria 300 years to close infrastructure gap, which would cost the country 4 per cent of its GDP yearly.
The report read, “At the current rate of expenditure allocation, it would take 300 years to close the country’s current infrastructure gap. Closing Nigeria’s infrastructure gap would cost at least four per cent of GDP growth per year.”
In September 2021, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the Federal Government was borrowing to build world-class infrastructure and not for recurrent expenditure.
The minister said this at the town hall meeting organised by his ministry on the destruction of telecommunications and power infrastructure in Borno State
Recently in October, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), defended his government’s borrowing, describing it as a necessary step to provide the infrastructure that would expand opportunities for the growth of the Nigerian economy.
Buhari said, “We have also continued to accelerate our infrastructure development through serviceable and transparent borrowing, improved capital inflow and increased revenue generation by expanding the tax bases and prudent management of investment proceeds in the Sovereign Wealth Fund.”
Nigeria currently has a debt burden of about N66.61tn, which includes N23.77tn from the CBN and N42.84tn from domestic and foreign creditors.
The PUNCH recently reported that the country’s debt rose by N30.72tn between July 2015 and June 2022, according to data released by the Debt Management Office.
According to the DMO statistics, Nigeria’s total debt as of June 30, 2015, stood at N12.12tn. By June 30, 2022, the figure had risen to N42.84tn, which showed an increase of 253.47 per cent. Despite the high increase in debt over the years, the government still plans to borrow N8.4tn in 2023.
The PUNCH also reported that the Federal Government had borrowed N6.31tn from the Central Bank of Nigeria through Ways and Means Advances in 10 months.
This pushed the Federal Government’s borrowing from the CBN from N17.46tn in December 2021 to N23.77tn in October 2022.
Ways and Means Advances is a loan facility through which the CBN finances the shortfalls in the government’s budget.
The N23.77tn owed to the apex bank by the Federal Government is not part of the country’s total public debt stock, which stood at N42.84tn as of June 2022.
The World Bank had, in November 2021, warned the Nigerian government against financing deficits by borrowing from the CBN through the Ways and Means Advances, saying this put fiscal pressures on the country’s expenditures.
Despite warnings from experts and organisations, the Federal Government had kept borrowing from the CBN to fund budget deficits.
A development economist, Dr Aliyu Ilias, criticised the government for its constant reliance on borrowing, which was unhealthy for the economy.
He urged the government to seek better ways of generating revenue rather than persistently borrowing from the apex bank.
EU strikes oil price cap deal to starve Russia war machine of funds
The EU on Friday joined the G7 in agreeing a cap on the price of Russian oil to starve the Kremlin of resources for its Ukraine war, as President Vladimir Putin said strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure were “inevitable”.
The price cap of $60 per barrel, previously agreed on a political level with the United States and the G7 group of wealthy democracies, will come into effect with an EU embargo on Russian crude oil from Monday.
The embargo will prevent shipments of Russian crude by tanker vessel to the EU, which account for two thirds of imports, potentially depriving Russia’s war chest of billions of euros.
Poland had refused to back the price cap plan over concerns the ceiling was too high, before its ambassador to the bloc confirmed Warsaw’s agreement on Friday evening, allowing the measure to be made official this weekend.
The price cap is designed to make it harder to bypass the sanctions by selling beyond the EU.
Poland’s ambassador to the bloc, Andrzej Sados, also said Brussels would take into account Polish and Baltic state suggestions for a “painful and expensive” ninth round of sanctions against Moscow.
The White House described the deal as “welcome news”, saying a price cap will help limit Putin’s ability to fund the Kremlin’s “war machine”.
– Infrastructure strikes ‘inevitable’ –
After suffering humiliating defeats during what has become the largest armed conflict in Europe since World War II, Russia began targeting Ukrainian energy infrastructure in October, causing sweeping blackouts.
Putin said Russian strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure were “inevitable”, in his first conversation with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz since mid-September.
“Such measures have become a forced and inevitable response to Kyiv’s provocative attacks on Russia’s civilian infrastructure,” Putin told Scholz, according to a Kremlin readout of the telephone talks.
The Kremlin leader referred in particular to the October attack on a bridge linking Moscow-annexed Crimea to the Russian mainland.
Scholz “urged the Russian president to come as quickly as possible to a diplomatic solution including the withdrawal of Russian troops”, according to the German leader’s spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.
Putin called on Berlin to “reconsider its approaches” and accused the West of carrying out “destructive” policies in Ukraine, the Kremlin said, stressing that its political and financial aid meant Kyiv “completely rejects the idea of any negotiations”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had ruled out any talks with Russia while Putin is in power shortly after the Kremlin claimed to have annexed several Ukrainian regions.
– Talks off the table –
The Kremlin also indicated Moscow was in no mood for talks over Ukraine, after US President Joe Biden said he would be willing to sit down with Putin if the Russian leader truly wanted to end the fighting.
“What did President Biden say in fact? He said that negotiations are possible only after Putin leaves Ukraine,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, adding Moscow was “certainly” not ready to accept those conditions.
The White House sought to pour water on the idea of talks as well on Friday, saying Biden has “no intention” of sitting down with Putin at present.
But Washington did say it was ready to meet on a different issue, expressing disappointment that Russia had postponed talks on nuclear arms control.
Russia’s strikes have destroyed close to half of the Ukrainian energy system and left millions in the cold and dark at the onset of winter.
In the latest estimates from Kyiv, Mykhaylo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky, said as many as 13,000 Ukrainian troops have died in the fighting.
Both Moscow and Kyiv are suspected of minimising their losses to avoid damaging morale.
Top US general Mark Milley last month said more than 100,000 Russian military personnel have been killed or wounded in Ukraine, with Kyiv’s forces likely suffering similar casualties.
– ‘We are not defeated’ –
The fighting in Ukraine has also claimed the lives of thousands of Ukrainian civilians and forced millions to flee their homes.
Those who remain in the country have had to cope with emergency blackouts as authorities sought to relieve the pressure on the energy infrastructure.
In an attempt to boost the mood in the capital Kyiv, musicians played a classical music concert on Thursday with hundreds of LED candles lighting up the stage.
“We thought it was a good idea to save energy,” Irina Mikolaenko, one of the concert’s organisers, told AFP.
She said they wanted to spread “inspiration, light and love” and “tell people that we are not defeated”.
Ukrainian officials have said they are expecting a new wave of Russian attacks shortly.
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