By Sade Williams
Shareholders of Arik Air Limited has filed a N20 billion suit against the federal government and Ethiopian Airlines over recent claims in the media that they were negotiating the takeover of the airline.
The suit was instituted by the shareholders of the airline at the Federal High Court, Lagos against Ethiopian Airlines, the Federal Ministry of Transportation and the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami.
A copy of the suit which was filed on Sept.6, 2017 by Arik Air’s counsel, Mr Babajide Koku (SAN), Mr Chukwuemeka Nwigwe and Mrs Ezinne Emedom, was obtained by The Travel Port in Lagos.
In its statement of claim supported by a 20 paragraph affidavit deposed to by Mr Chris Ndulue, a Director with Arik Air, the plaintiff asked the court to restrain the first and second defendants from further negotiations on its takeover.
The plaintiff noted that the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) had taken over the airline on Feb. 8, 2017 which was challenged by its management via two suits already pending before the Federal High Court, Lagos.
According to the plaintiff, the suits numbers are FHC/L/CS/827/17 and FHC/L/CS/826/17, adding that the negotiations by the defendants will render the outcome of the suits nurgatory.
“The plaintiff avers that the agreement of the second defendant with the first defendant will be wide ranging and intricately affect every aspect of the plaintiff herein, including but not limited to the day to day running technical as well as financial management which will affect the plaintiff as being the largest domestic and regional airline in Nigeria.
“The plaintiff further avers that the action taken by the first and second defendants will have a negative effect on the country’s image as the plaintiff being the largest airline will be pawned over to another country for management,” it said.
The plaintiff also averred that the negotiations had caused undue hardship and irreparable damage to the Arik Air brand and ongoing investment discussions as well as unbearable distress to the airline’s shareholders and directors.
It therefore asked the court to declare the negotiations null and void because the Ministry of Transportation had no power to transfer the management of the airline to Ethiopian Airlines while the suits over the takeover were pending.
The plaintiff also asked the court for an order directing Malami to ensure the investigation of Ethiopian Airlines by the appropriate authorities for inducing and interfering in the administration of justice in the pending suits.
It added that if found culpable, the airline should be charged to court for criminal contempt contrary to Section 133 (4) and (9) of the Criminal Code Laws of Lagos State, Cap C17,Laws of Lagos State of Nigeria, 2004.
The plaintiff also asked the court for an order compelling the Inspector General of Police to investigate the actions of the second defendant.
It further asked the court for N20 billion being punitive damages against the first defendant for inducing or partaking in the interference of the rights of the plaintiff and the administration of justice.
Speaking on behalf of the stakeholders, the former Vice President of Arik Air, Senator Anietie Okon accused Ethiopia Airlines of indulging in unethical behavior and is conspiring with some people in the Nigerian government to take over Arik, noting that records show that Ethiopian had allegedly owed huge debts in the past which with the support of its own government it had defrayed and even currently it still owed huge debts.
Okon noted that in the aviation industry, debts by airlines is a continuum and it is believed that as long as that airline is flying it owes debts. According to him, debts are staggered and paid for and in all countries of the world most governments support their airlines, whether flag carriers or national carriers and including the ones who are indebted.
He said Arik has over 2000 direct staff and it is indirectly providing sustenance to over 5000 Nigerians .