Nigeria: The ‘NIGERIA AIR' Domain Name Saga – A Case Of A Stitch In Time…?

Last Updated: 14 May 2019
Article by Chinweizu Ogban

When Senator Hadi Sirika, Honourable Minister of State for Aviation, said that the long-lost dreams of Nigeria Airways were restored with the unveiling of the new national flag carrier/airline little did he know that the headlines would be something that appeared 'small' yet had an ability to generate such furore. I am talking about Olumayowa Elegbede, the "sharp guy" as some may call him, who saw this as an opportunity to make a fortune and quickly purchased the following domain names: and purchased the following domain names: and

  • Smart move or an illegality?
  • Will the Federal Government get these domains back?
  • Errrhhhmmm...what exactly are Domain names and why are they so important?

An Intro to Domain Names...

  • Definition - The simplest definition I can think of is this: A domain name is the website name of an entity, through which users of the internet can have access to the website. It consists of any combination of letters and numbers, used in conjunction with different extensions such as .ng, .com, .net, etc., depending on the type of entity.
  • Examples of domain names include,,,, and
  • Background on Domain Names
  • The development of Domain Names can be traced to the 1960s when computers began connecting to each other on Wide Area Networks (WAN). Wide Area Networks gave computers the ability to send data over a large geographical area, and this in turn, increased the use of computers and connections. The internet itself, is a type of WAN.
  • With this increase, arose the need to regulate and maintain the domain paths through the networks.
  • In response to this need, the United States Defence Information Systems Agency created the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), to oversee the assignment of unique 'internet' addresses to each computer connected to the internet, using the Internet Protocol (IP) address system.
  • To connect to another user on the internet however, you had to insert the user's IP address such as An ever-increasing number of users meant that the numbers were getting too long to remember, and it became imperative to create a simple and easy-to-remember system for recognizing other networks. This need led to the creation of the name server system in 1984 by researchers and technicians at the University of Wisconsin. The name server system later known as the Domain Name System (DNS), changed user identification from 140.226.789.008, for example, to, an easy-to-remember name.
  • The internet further evolved and became more commercialized with the introduction of the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1990, making domain names registrable. Today, a domain name/website name is registrable all around the world with domain name Registrars.
  • The Domain Name System is a hierarchical system, with top-level, second-level, third-level and sometimes fourth-level domain names.

Types of Domain Names

Top-level domain (TLD) – This domain is at the highest level of the Domain Name System and it typically identifies the registrant's category, e.g.:

  • educational institution (.edu),
  • government institution (.gov),
  • commercial (.com),
  • non-profit group (.org).
  • network organizations (.net)
  • military (.mil)

Types of TLDs include:

  1. ccTLD (country code Top Level Domain): A ccTLD is a two-letter domain name established for geographical locations, e.g. .ng. Country-code level domain names are usually managed by national domain name Registrars. For instance, the Nigerian ccTLD .ng is managed by the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA).
  2. gTLD (generic Top-Level Domain): gTLD consist of generic domains such as .com, .net, .biz, .org, etc. gTLD usually define the domain name class, for example, commercial institutions such as konga, jumia, jacksonettiandedu, use the .com, top level domain for their websites.
  3. Other top-level domain names include infrastructure top-level domain, restricted generic top-level domains (grTLD), sponsored top-level domains (sTLD) and test top-level domains (tTLD).

Second-level domain (SLD or 2LD) - This is a domain that is directly below a top-level domain and commonly refers to the organization that registered the domain name e.g.

Third-level domain - This is next in line of the hierarchy. It is the segment that is found directly to the left of the second-level domain. They are not mandatory unless the user has a specific requirement. For example, where is the second level domain name, and there is also a website for the firm's Intellectual Property Practice, the Third Level domain will be expressed as

Nigeria Country Code Top-Level Domain Name - Whilst other top-level domain names are managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Nigerian country code top-level domain name (.ng) is managed by the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA) which has accredited Registrars who handle the registration, renewal, and transfer of second-level domain names registered with the ".ng" domain name extension. The Nigerian country-code top-level domain name is governed by the Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention) Act 2015 ("Cybercrimes Act"), the National Information Technology Development Agency Act 2007 ("NITDA Act") and the Nigerian Constitution.

  • Every domain name is unique; thus no two websites can have the same domain name. A domain name must be registered before it can be used.
  • Note: A registered domain name however, does not vest ownership rights in the domain name; it only grants exclusive right to use the domain name for the duration for which it was paid. This term is usually between 1-10 years.

'Sharp Guy' or Cybersquatting?

In the light of the foregoing, can Mr. Olumayowa "sharp guy" Elegbede lay a valid claim of ownership to the and ownership to the and domain names he very 'sharply' registered? Or is this a case of Cybersquatting?

To answer this question requires us to look at the applicable domain name policy which regulates the .ng extension and to draw conclusions from those provisions. The regulator in this case, is NIRA, which incidentally, does not restrict who may apply for and register a domain name.

A search conducted on the NIRA WhoisSearch database, revealed that the domain names were registered on the 18th of July 2018, the same day the announcement was made by the Federal Government, which immediately raises issues of the existence or not, of malicious intent behind the registrations.


Cybersquatting is the illegal domain name registration of popular or well-known company names/trademarks with the aim of reselling them to the rightful owners for profit. ICANN defines cybersquatting as the bad faith registration of the trademark of another entity in a domain name. For example, the popular search engine Google had to commence a cybersquatting complaint against a similar domain name registered as "" under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) of ICANN.

Cybersquatting is different from domain name speculation, which is the purchase of domain names to be resold at a profit. Whilst one is a legal business endeavour, the other is a crime and is illegal. For instance, a person could register or and is illegal. For instance, a person could register or and resell at a higher price to whoever wishes to buy the domain on the agreed terms. With cybersquatting, the converse is the same – there is a deliberate step taken to register popular/well-known marks, for example, (a popular margarine brand), with the intention of reselling it to the rightful owners. This is a crime and is punishable under the Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention) Act 2015 (The Cybercrimes Act).

Section 25(1) & (2) of The Cybercrimes Act.

"Any person who, intentionally takes or makes use of a name, business name, trademark, domain name or other word or phrase registered, owned or in use by any individual, body corporate or belonging to either the Federal, State or Local Governments in Nigeria, on the internet or any other the owner, registrant or legitimate prior user, commits an offense under this Act and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not more than 2 years or a fine of not more than ₦5,000,000.00 or to both fine and imprisonment".

In awarding any penalty against an offender under this section, a court shall have regard to the following:

  • A refusal by the offender to relinquish, upon formal request by the rightful owner of the name, business name, trademark, domain name, or other word or phrase registered, owned or in use by any individual, body corporate or belonging to either the Federal, State or Local Governments in Nigeria; or
  • An attempt by the offender to obtain compensation in any form for the release to the rightful owner for use of the name, business name, trademark, domain name or other word or phrase registered, owned or in use by any individual, body corporate or belonging to either the Federal, State or Local Government of Nigeria.

The above provisions are clear and in relation to the subject matter of this article, where a person intentionally takes or makes use of a domain name belonging to either the Federal, State, or Local Governments in Nigeria on the internet or any other computer network, without authority or right, and for the purpose of interfering with their use, such action amounts to cybersquatting.

I am not sure Mr. 'Sharp Guy' was aware of the law or sought proper legal advice before taking steps to register both domains. Unfortunately, ignorance of the law has never been an excuse and that position is unlikely to change anytime soon!

What must be established to succeed in a case of cybersquatting?

In the present case, sufficient evidence must be adduced, proving ownership of the name 'NigeriaAir' by the Federal Government. Such evidence should be in the form of the design and launch of the NigeriaAir national carrier; use of the NigeriaAir name and logo on documentation prior to and including the date of the launch, etc.

An argument may be presented in 'sharp guy's' defence that NigeriaAir is not a registered trademark. Fair comment. However, it must be noted that rights also accrue to unregistered trademarks, such as the rights of Passing-off, where another entity encroaches on the unregistered (but, in use), rights of another.

In this instance, NigeriaAir belongs to the Federal Government and has been used to launch the new National carrier, thus enjoying some goodwill. This 'goodwill' is the valuable essence of and bedrock of the rights of Passing-off which an unregistered trademark has a right to enjoy peacefully.

The Position under NiRA ...

Cybersquatting is also frowned upon under both the NiRA and ICANN domain name dispute resolution procedures. Under NiRA, where a domain name has been registered in bad faith, i.e., it was registered or otherwise acquired in a manner which, at the time when the registration or acquisition took place, took unfair advantage of, or was unfairly detrimental to the Complainant's Rights, or has been used in a manner which took unfair advantage of, or was unfairly detrimental to the Complainant's Rights, the domain name can be cancelled or transferred to the rightful owner upon institution of a Complaint under the NiRA Dispute Resolution procedure.

Some examples of bad faith registrations:

  • Circumstances showing that the domain name was registered or acquired primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the domain name to another person for valuable consideration in excess of the Registrant documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name; or
  • The domain name was registered by the Registrant in order to prevent the owner of a name, trademark or service mark from reflecting that name or mark in a corresponding domain name; or
  • The registrant has registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business or activities of another person; or
  • By using the domain name, the Registrant has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to a Website or other online location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant's name or mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of that the Website or location or of a product or service on that the Website or location.
  • The Respondent is using the Domain Name in a way which has confused people or businesses into believing that the Domain Name is registered to, operated or authorized by, or otherwise connected with the Complainant;
  • The Complainant can demonstrate that the Respondent is engaged in a pattern of registrations where the Respondent is the registrant of domain names (under .ng or otherwise) which correspond to well-known names or trademarks in which the Respondent has no apparent rights, and the Domain Name is part of that pattern;

Similar provisions on bad faith registration and circumstances evidencing bad faith registration are also provided under the ICANN Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP).

How Have the Courts Decided? A quick look at Case Law Position

1. eBay v. Du Hongxia (WIPO Case No D2014-2015): This domain name complaint was filed by eBay at the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre on November 17, 2014 against Du Hongxia/Liu Yujiao/WHOIS AGENT, Domain Whois Protection Service for the transfer of 1153 (one thousand one hundred and fifty-three) unauthorised domain names registered with the well-known and popular trademark 'eBay' included.

eBay adduced evidence of the Respondent registering domain names with the names of other popular brands such as BMW, NIKE, and SONY, in support of its claim.

The Panel reached a verdict that the domain names were registered and being used in bad faith and ordered the domain names to be transferred to the Complainant. The Panel's decision was based on the following:

  • that the domain names were all confusingly similar to the Complainant's eBay trademark, and
  • the Respondent had no legitimate rights or interests in the domain names, and
  • the registration of the domain names by the Respondent was to trade for commercial gain on the reputation and goodwill of the eBay trademark.

2. Konga Online Shopping Limited v. Rocket Internet GmbH, Arnt Jeschke (WIPO Case No. DSC2014-0001): Konga filed a Complaint against Rocket Internet GmbH (Jumia) at the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre on May 30, 2014, for registering domain names with the word Konga in various jurisdictions in bad faith, and to prevent Konga from using the domain name in those jurisdictions.

In its decision, the Panel denied the reliefs of the Complainant on the basis that the Complainant failed to prove that it had a trademark which was identical or confusingly similar to the domain name registered by the Respondent. The Panel noted that the trademark applications tendered by the Respondent which had not yet proceeded to registration did not constitute a trademark in which a Complainant has rights under the UDRP policy. The Panel further held that the Complainant failed to tender evidence such as the length and amount of sales under the trademark, the nature and extent of advertising, consumer surveys and media recognition in support of its common law right to the use of name "Konga" in respect of e-commerce businesses. As a result, the Complainant failed to prove its ownership of an identical or similar trademark under Paragraph 4(a) of the UDRP Policy, which was essential to succeed in the complaint.

The decision of the WIPO Panel in this case may be seen by some, as unfair to Konga, given the circumstances of the case and the fact that the Respondent/Jumia, indeed included 'Konga' in several domain names it had registered, and in which Konga had common law rights. However, as unfair as it may appear to be, the decision of the Panel re-establishes the fundamental elements that must be proved in order to succeed in a Complaint under the UDRP.

These are:

  • A valid interest or UDRP right in a trademark. A valid interest or UDRP right implies that the Complainant must have in existence, a registered trademark and in the absence of a registered trademark, common law rights in an unregistered trademark, which must be proved by credible evidence, including length and amount of sales under the trademark, the nature and extent of advertising, consumer surveys and media recognition.
  • The Complainant must prove additional elements, to wit: a of lack of rights or legitimate interest by the Respondent/domain name registrant in respect of the domain name(s) in question; and
  • Existence of Bad faith in the registration and use of the domain name by the registrant/Respondent.

Given the above elements however, the decision of the Panel to refrain from requesting for further statements or documents after it had on its own accord, pointed out its powers under paragraphs 10 and 12 of the UDRP Proceeding Rules to do so, in the light of glaring bad faith registrations carried out by the Respondent, does indeed appear unfair.

3. Amazon Technologies, Inc. v. Robert Nichols: In this case the exorbitant offers to sell the domain names was held to be an indication of bad faith.

Any Recourse for the Federal Government?

Aside from outright purchase of the domain names from Mr. 'sharp guy', there are other options the Federal Government can explore to recover them.

  1. Institute an action under NiRA's Dispute Resolution Policy for the ".ng" domain names or under the ICANN Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy for the .com domain name. Both steps are administrative procedures.
  2. Initiating formal court proceedings to recover the domain names, Irrespective of the above administrative procedures.
  3. Commence a criminal action for Cyber Squatting under Section 25 (1) of the Cybercrimes Act, which is punishable by a term not exceeding 2 years and/or to a fine of N5 million. The Court can further order the offender under the Act to relinquish the domain names to the Federal Government.

Conclusion: A Stitch In Time Saves Nine

This idiomatic expression is the best description of this entire saga.

Hopefully, the major lesson learned by not just the Federal Government, but the general public, is the importance of protecting Intellectual Property in a timely manner. Domain names are most frequently on the lowest rung of importance for entrepreneurs when developing their brands, but it is critical that they recognize the prevalence of cybersquatters who are on the prowl to pounce on unsuspecting/unguarded trademarks, thus benefitting where they did not labour.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Practice Guides
by Mondaq Advice Centres
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions