Nigeria Air Domain Registration Saga. Who Wins?

nigeria air

A few days ago, the Federal Government of Nigeria announced the relaunch of a new national carrier for Nigeria, The Nigeria Air. With the announcement came the unveiling of a logo for the brand that was supposedly designed by a Bahrain company for some millions of Naira. As expected, this launch has generated some discussions online. I actually found an interesting tweet that made me look closer at the logo. It is actually not just a ribbon, but an eagle spreading its wings.

What interests me most however in this saga, is that some “sharp” guy went ahead to register and and put them up for sale!

Some are saying that he is indeed smart and will make the government cough up some millions before releasing the domains since they were not smart enough to register the domain for Nigeria Air before announcing. Others have suggested that he will probably be arrested since it is a crime to register the domains. To respond, I will like to educate first.

No one really owns a domain

Generally, when you need a domain name, you would go to a registrar/reseller that sells the domain extension and place a request for the domain after confirming that it is available. Then you pay a fee for say a year or more and then the domain is registered in your name. You are tempted to believe that you own the domain for that period, but that is not really true. I think it is more appropriate to say that you have rented the domain for that period. You also only keep that domain as long as you do not flaunt the regulations of the domain registry.

To put it simply, the domain registry is responsible for managing all domains within the zone. So, if you register for instance, you are bound by the rules of the registrar/reseller you bought the domain from and the registry the manages all dotCOM domains, Verisign. If you register, you are bound by the rules of the registrar/reseller you bought the domain from and the registry that manages all dotNG domains, the Nigeria Internet Registration Association, NiRA. If the registry believes that you have flaunted any of their rules, they can actually pull down the domain or in some cases, take the domain from you.

Why The Registered Nigeria Air .NG Domain Names Cannot Be Sold

So, before you can sell a domain, you need to be sure you are not breaking any rules. There have been cases where people have sold domains for quite a lot of money. It is possible to sell domains. In this case, however, I doubt a sale will be possible for the following reasons.

The domain is not really registered…yet.

NiRA has some exceptions that prevent the registering domain names and one of such restrictions is what has been termed “geonames”. In summary, a geoname represents a domain name that can be confused to mean that the domain is owned or managed by a government entity. For instance, if I register, it will be argued that this domain is owned and managed by the Lagos State Government, and as such will not be registered. The same applies to the domain names this sharp guy intends to sell to Nigeria Air ( and Even without the announcement, this domain is considered a geoname as it implies that the domain is owned and managed by the Federal Government of Nigeria. As such, it will not be registered.

But it has already been registered, you say. Not quite. If you perform a WHOIS search of (a WHOIS search allows us to see the details of the domain registration), you will see the status of the domain is “ServerHold”.

This means that the domain has not been approved by NiRA because it violates the rule described above. A domain in ServerHold cannot actually be used because it has not been fully registered. In other words, the guy doesn’t even “own” the domain he is trying to sell…yet. And I doubt he ever will.

Even if the domain was fully registered, it could be taken away from the “owner”

So, let us argue that the domain is later approved for some reason. Or let’s say you don’t believe me and you insist the domain has been registered. Like I explained above about domain ownership, even if a domain has been registered, it can still be taken away. And one valid reason to take a domain away if someone else has the trademark for that name in Nigeria. According to Article 8.4(4) of the registrant agreement of NiRA, a domain registrant (a person who registers a domain name) represents, warrants and covenants to NIRA that

No Infringement. Neither the registration of any Domain Name nor the manner in which the Registrant intends to use or uses such Domain Name will directly or indirectly infringe or otherwise violate the trade-mark or other intellectual property or other rights of any Person or defame any Person or unlawfully discriminate against any Person or breach any Applicable Laws.

So, if the Federal Government has a trademark for Nigeria Air, which I believe is a small matter, the domain can simply be taken away. Game over.

So, Who Wins?

Definitely not the guy. At best, he will get a refund because the domain could not be approved. At worst, the domain is taken away from him and he loses his registration fee. He has just successfully informed the Federal Government that they should register the domains and they probably would.

The lesson of the day is you can’t win them all.

Got any questions, leave a comment.

  1. A good lesson for interlopers. But what if the dude registers or where NiRA has no authority?

    1. Good question. There are so many domain extensions out there that this guy could have registered on. But he understood that this is probably more valuable to NigeriaAir.

  2. Awesome analysis @Obaniyi, this also puts a torch on the inability of government to outsource its projects to credible hands. imagine outsourcing the branding of a national carrier to foreigners, this shows how the government of the day encourages the creative industry in Nigeria to grow. Also imagine not registering the domain for this project before coming out for public launch or announcement, well-done to the creative mind who registered that domain.

    Truth is the Nigeria air is a geoname which is supposedly manged by the authority within that geozone and so he could potentially lose the domain name.

  3. This is why I dsialike dealing with most locally owned or managed stuffs. If this was a .com domain from a foreign registrar, will this apply?

    FG should go and sit one cornner and pay that guy for the domain!

    1. Many registries have rules against registration of geonames, and especially trademarks. Even if the domain name were a .com domain, if NigeriaAir gets an internationally recognised trademark and can prove that the domain was registered in bad faith, they will have a case. Of course it will be a lot more work, but there have been cases where entities have won domains back in court.

      My point really is there are rules against cybersquatting which is the “practice of registering, using, or selling a domain name containing language that is identical or similar to a current trademark owner’s mark with a bad faith intent to profit from the domain name.” In this particular case though, the matter did not even get to that level because the name was considered a geoname.

    2. One thing I know for sure is that, if the domain name being registered for has a trademark, you’ll be refunded. It applies globally

  4. This I will consider an after thought, absolute ridicule and act of oppression should FG decides to take the domain from the young man.

    NIRA, being government managed, should know that if they are interested in retaining certain domain ownership should refrain from selling such domain to the public, just like it is done for .edu, .gov, You can not buy these domains and successfuly pay without providing papers yo shoe you have right.

    I.e, .edu, you a university operation license (from a recognized institution) to buy it from any registrar in the World. You can not pay for it.

    Because if you have put up a product up for sale in the pubic domain, and hide under the disguise of certain clauses in your terms as a registrar, which they know 90% of buyers don’t go to read, I consider frivolous and malicious.

    If I was the guy, I will go to court.

    1. I understand your point and it has been open for debate for a while. Since the and .ng zones are open, why should some domains within those zones be blocked? I am aware that NiRA is considering having a finite list of geonames in the future, but nothing is set in stone yet. In the meantime, any domain containing the name of a local government, state or “Nigeria” will be manually approved. I guess this is what made this matter about NigeriaAir pretty straightforward.

      I must correct the notion that the dotNG registry is managed by the Federal Government. NiRA is a non-governmental association that has been tasked with managing the dotNG zone. The policies set in place are not intended to oppress as far as I know. But with all policies, there are times when they may have unintended effects, and may need to be reviewed. The original purpose of geonames is to prevent confusion as I described in this article. This is the same reason CAC will not register any business that starts with Nigeria or National.

      As for going to court, he agreed with the terms of the registry when purchasing the domain, so I can imagine that he will have to prove exactly how he was cheated. Goodluck to him :=)

      1. Yes, Toba, you are absolutely right, he agreed to the terms.

        However, let me note this to you, there have been cases where people agreed to certain online terms, but later went to court on matters against the online terms they had agreed to and won, with backings such as:

        1, Those online terms being in bad fate.

        2, Oversights (this is fairly arugble in court today, although not advised. I will give instance in my conclusion).

        3, Unethical practice and below global standard.

        For instance, there was a case of SaaS where someone agreed to a term to use a SaaS, but didn’t know that upon service expiration, if they don’t write formally to terminate the service, even while they were not using it or with restricted access, their bills will continue to accumulate.

        So when this user returned after a while to continue to use the SaaS software they had stopped using, made new payments, that payment was wiped off for accumulated bills, they were restricted for a while, and they went to court to file for damages caused.

        They won the case and the SaaS company paid handsomely for damages, they won the case on the groups of the 3 pointers I listed above.

        You don’t include certain unethical practices hidden under the disguise of online terms of service.

        Anyway, as the court pleasees.

  5. I am very sorry, but the author is wrong on multiple points:

    1. “Server holding” does not mean a name has not been registered .It simply means that it’s records have not been created or propagated in DNS

    2. Nigeria is not a Trademark, amd a lot of Private domain names bearing “Nigeria” exist on the internet, unmolested, today. The most obvious one “” doesn’t even belong to the Government of Nigeria. Likewise, or is not an infringement on the Government and People of the United States. Hence, those domains belong to individuals.

    3. IveI already contended that “Nigeria” is neither a Trademark nor an IP, so the Article of NiRA cited above is inapplicable.

    Now, would this squatter get a big pay-day? It depends on your interpretation of “Justice” and it’s application in Nigeria.

    1. Thank you for your comments. I will respond below.

      1. You are absolutely right. However, for the purpose of the audience, I did state the domain has not been registered because it will be a bit more difficult to explain DNS. For this purpose also, the domain will probably never be approved, hence my saying it hasn’t been registered as the domain is not useful to the registrant.

      2. I never claimed that Nigeria is a trademark. I explained two problems with the domains. The first is geonames. When a name includes the name Nigeria, any state or local government, it is termed a geoname by NIRA and needs to be approved manually. During this approval process, they check if the name implies that it is owned by government. In this case, NigeriaAir implies that it is owned by government and will therefore likely not be approved. I explained the trademark bit in a case where the domain is indeed approved, explaining that the government will probably provide a TradeMark for NigeriaAir which I expect is being worked on. With proof of that, even if the domain is approved, it can still be taken down.

      I do agree that the definition of geonames is actually way too broad and this is a matter that has been up for discussions. NiRA is currently considering having a finite list whereby other domains will be allowed even if they contain Nigeria. So, we are all waiting for that.

      3. Again, I did not intend to imply that Nigeria is a Trademark. I only stated that in a case where the domain is indeed approved. I also explained that there would have to be proof of Trademark of NigeriaAir, which shouldn’t be a problem.

      Thanks again for the wonderful comment.

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