Nigeria's government is addressing legal issues that have prevented Nigerian airlines from dry-leasing aircraft, according to Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development Festus Keyamo.

Speaking in an interview with Arise News TV on April 8, he said Nigeria is drafting a practice direction - a protocol to rules of procedure in the courts - that would:

  • instruct judges not to grant injunctions to detain dry-leased aircraft in Nigeria as it is against the Cape Town Convention (CTC), which governs the lease of aircraft worldwide and safeguards the rights of owners and lessors to reclaim their assets if airlines default;
  • allow aircraft owners to apply to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), which would grant relief within five days; and
  • order courts to grant relief within ten days to creditors that want to take their aircraft out of Nigeria.

Keyamo said he had consulted on the matter with Nigeria's attorney general, the chief judge of the Federal High Court, the chief justice of Nigeria, the president, and the vice president. "All of us have agreed that it is a critical issue," he underlined, adding that he would now engage with OEMs and lessors to pass on the message.

Nigeria is a signatory to and has ratified the CTC, he said, but Nigerian operators have struggled to obtain dry-leased aircraft, impacting their ability to compete with major international airlines.

Keyamo said he had consulted with the UK-based global aviation watchdog the Aviation Working Group (AWG), whose legal advisory panel maintains a practitioner's guide to the CTC and ensures compliance by ratifying countries.

"They said it was a legal problem. They bring aircraft into Nigeria on dry-lease. Our local - I'm sorry to say - unscrupulous businessmen take the aircraft, refuse to fulfil their obligations on those dry leases, and guess what? They rush to court to get an injunction to stop the removal of those aircraft from Nigeria. It happened with a previous airline some ten years ago, and it gave Nigeria a bad image," he explained.

"So the AWG told me, until you amend your laws and your practice directions in court to outlaw the granting of injunctions for the removal of aircraft on dry-lease, we will not bring aircraft into your country," he continued. "I consulted around the whole [Nigerian aviation] industry, with all stakeholders, and I discovered that the reason why we cannot compete with international airlines is that we don't have access to aircraft on the same terms as the big airlines around the world."