Allen Onyema, the Chairman and CEO of Air Peace, urged the federal government to abandon the notion of financing a national carrier project. Speaking on the Channels TV programme, Politics Today, he asserted that the government should steer clear of involvement in the aviation sector.
When the show host questioned Onyema about whether he was taking a stand because he was afraid of the threat a national carrier poses on his company, he replied, “When you are patriotic, people accuse you of all sorts; Ibom Air is bringing in aircraft, Overland is doing the same, and Airpeace has a firm order for over 33 brand new aircraft, so why would I be threatened by a national carrier that is starting with three aircraft? All we see is our country throwing money away; what the government needs to do is support the indigenous operators.”
He further mentioned that globally, airlines are grappling with profitability despite the presence of all necessary facilitators.
“What we need are flag carriers, not national carriers; where is Kenya Airways today? They are not doing well because it’s a national carrier… Getting into it and coming out is not easy. President Olusegun Obasanjo did it, but not everybody can muster the will to do that as a leader.”
Speaking on the Ethiopian template, which has been adjudged successful, he said, “That is just one example of a thousand failures. Over time, there has been this unholy alliance trying to bring the Nigerian indigenous airlines down, and we’ve started to sit up and fight back to take our rightful place. Let any indigenous Nigerian carrier succeed tomorrow, and let’s see if it’s the same story about the Ethiopian airline. Nigerian flag carriers are even getting it right; with the right infrastructure, things will change for the better.
“A situation when we badmouth our geographical position as the best in Africa and they should have used Nigeria as a transit hub, yes! But what about our airports? Do they have transit facilities, capital, etc.? No? Air Peace is doing about eight African countries, China, and India; London is coming by December. You want to move passengers from all these places and fly them here and then fly them to India so that your India flight to Mumbai will be doing well? No, you can’t.” He noted.
He lamented that he once brought passengers from Douala to transit to Senegal, and you tell them they must pay some hundreds of dollars; they’ll come in; they’ll clear immigration, customs, quarantine, and even pass Boys Scouts and every manner of uniforms at our airports; you have no business in Nigeria; you are just passing through, so there is no transit space in Nigeria.
Onyema also spoke about a hike in airfare, “Apart from the issue of forex, other airlines borrow at the rate of 3%, but in Nigeria, we borrow at… Everything about the airline business is in dollars; everything is imported; today, the dollar is over $1000, and people are expecting to pay the same airfare.”
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