Allen Onyema, the CEO of Air Peace, has called for the dissolution of Nigeria Air, the national carrier introduced during the previous administration. He suggested that the country invests in a flagship airline rather than a national carrier, which he described as defunct.
During an interview on Arise Television’s morning show, Onyema criticized the airline’s ownership structure, stating that it favors Ethiopia. He argued that Nigeria is providing the financial investment for the airline, while Ethiopia stands to gain 49% of the venture without contributing any funds.
According to The PUNCH, the Federal Government received the first plane of Nigeria Air, the national carrier, despite protests from local airline operators who claimed it violated a court order prohibiting further action on the project.
Onyema further revealed that in 2019, Air Peace was approached by Ethiopian Airlines for a partnership, which he declined due to his patriotism for Nigeria. He pointed out that according to the agreement, Ethiopians were not expected to invest any money in the Nigeria Air project.
He also alleged that the leadership positions in Nigeria Air, including the DFO, CEO, and other management roles, were to be held by Ethiopians. At the same time, Nigerians would only have the deputy positions.
Onyema emphasized that the unveiling of Nigeria Air, disregarding the ongoing litigation, shows a complete lack of respect for the judiciary, which should not be tolerated.
Regarding the agreement between Nigeria Air and Ethiopian Airlines, he stated, “The entire management, including the DFO, CEO, and all management positions, was to be headed by Ethiopians, while the deputy slots were given to Nigeria.”
He continued, “Look at the shareholding; ET has 49%. There is a company called Fairfax, owned by ET. They will receive three percent of the shareholding capital, amounting to $250 million. ET will contribute $122 million, but not in cash, rather as rentals.”
Onyema emphasized that Ethiopian Airlines is not making any financial contributions, while Nigerian companies like SAHCO and MRS are expected to invest. He urged President Ahmed Bola Tinubu to dissolve the Nigeria Air project and pursue an alternative approach.
Regarding the concept of a national carrier, Onyema argued that it is an outdated idea and a financial burden on countries. He mentioned that most countries now have flag carriers, such as British Airways, which private groups own. He suggested that Nigeria should focus on improving the ease of business and encourage private investments in the aviation industry.
Responding to whether Air Peace was interested in partnering with Nigeria Air, he revealed that they attempted but faced obstacles and were denied. He also discussed their challenges when trying to commence London flights, mentioning issues with regulatory authorities and unfair treatment.
Onyema mentioned plans to provide palliatives to Air Peace staff to mitigate the impact of removing petrol subsidies. He supported President Ahmed Tinubu’s decision and said the company would assist its employees.
Starting this month, palliative measures will be implemented to support the government’s actions, Onyema concluded.