Nigeria Air Deadlock: President Meets With Ethiopian Airlines Chair

Ethiopian Airlines' Chairman of the Board of Directors asks Nigerian President for a resolution of Nigerian Air impasse.



February 21, 2023

DALLAS — On Sunday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari met with Girma Wake, the Chairman of the Ethiopian Airlines (ET) Board of Directors, in Addis Ababa.

Mr. Wake asked for a quick resolution to the legal issues that have been preventing the launch of Nigeria Air (NG), which was unveiled at the 2018 Farnborough Airshow.

Ethiopian Airlines holds a 49% stake in the new airline, while the remaining stake is owned by other investors. Nigerian government regulations state that they cannot hold more than 5% of the stake, as per the statement of Tolu Ogunlesi, a Nigerian government communications official.


Legal Dispute over Nigeria Air

The Nigerian government, led by President Buhari, has encountered significant obstacles in its attempt to relaunch a national airline. These delays are due to the share of the airline owned by Ethiopian Airlines (ET) and the resistance from the Association of Nigerian Aviation Operators (AON), which represents provincial airline operators in Nigeria.

Regional airlines had filed a lawsuit to halt the flag carrier deal and withdraw the Air Transport Licence (ATL) already granted to NG by the Federal Government through the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

Local airlines such as Air Peace (P4), United Nigeria (U5), Azman (ZQ), and Top Brass (BRL) claim that the transaction advisor for the agreement—which was established in March 2022—has close connections with Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika.

This issue, which has been in court since 2022, was also postponed in January of this year.

Ethiopian Airlines ET-AQO Boeing 737-860
Ethiopian Airlines ET-AQO Boeing 737-860 | Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

Buhari Meets Wake

Mr. Wake, while exchanging arguments on the operationalization of NG with Buhari, demanded a resolution of the legal dispute, halting the launch of NG.

According to Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, the ET chairman requested the repatriation of the carrier funds entangled in Nigeria over foreign exchange challenges.

Buhari told the board chairman that it was a "weighty decision" by the Nigerian administration to relaunch a state carrier, but that things would "be alright.’’

'‘Nigeria is not just a market but a hub for aviation in Africa. Nigeria is a special country and nobody travels more around the globe than Nigerians.’’ 

President Buhari statement over Nigeria Air Dispute

The ET Chairman revealed future plans and suggested that the Ethiopian airline was planning to increase its routes in Nigeria, with more daily flights from Addis Ababa to Lagos and from Abuja to Addis Ababa.

He also stated that ET and its partner are ready to begin operations in Nigeria as soon as the court-related issues are resolved.

Feature Image: Ethiopian Airlines ET-ASG Boeing 787-8 KIAH. Photo: Brad Tisdel/Airways