Barely two weeks after lift-off, Nigerian startup Green Africa Airways (Q9, Lagos) faces an ownership challenge in the Federal High Court in Lagos from an alleged former business partner of chief executive officer Babawande Afolabi.

United States-based Nigerian citizen Kenny Awosika is claiming co-founder status, 55% of the airline’s authorised share capital, and NGN625million naira (USD1.5 million) in damages for an alleged breach of agreement. Alternatively, he wants the defendants to pay him USD30.25 million, equal to the value of 55% of the airline’s share capital at the last valuation in 2019, reports Nigeria's Vanguard newspaper.

Green Africa Airways spokesperson Oyindamola Fashogbon declined to comment. As reported, the airline launched commercial operations between Lagos and Abuja on August 12 with three ATR72-600s from ACIA Aero.

The defendants in the case include Babawande Afolabi, Green Africa Airways Ltd, Taiwo Afolabi, Kuramo Africa Opportunity II (Mauritius) LLC, Nigeria’s Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

Awosika, in his statement of claim, alleges that he is the co-founder and director of Green Africa Airways Ltd (registered in Nigeria in 2015) and also functions as its director of Information Technology and Innovation.

He also claims to be the founder and co-owner of Green White Group LLC (GWG Maryland), a limited liability company registered in Germantown, Maryland, USA. The company was registered on September 26, 2013, by himself and Afolabi to provide the financial and technical support for the formation and incorporation of Green Africa Airways.

The partners had agreed that Awisika should remain in the USA, where he was earning a salary as a US government contractor, to support the incorporation of Green Africa Airways financially. With Awisika’s financial support, Afolabi had returned to Nigeria and registered the airline with the CAC with a NGN500million (USD1.2 million) initial share capital.

Awosika claimed he had eventually resigned from his job, exited his private US businesses, and gave up his US government security clearance to return to Nigeria to help run the business.

However, unknown to him, and contrary to their arrangement, Afolabi had listed himself and his brother Taiwo Afolabi as the only shareholders and directors of Green Africa Airways.

The defendants are yet to file a response. No date has been set for the hearing.