Onyema faults Sirika’s claims on Air Peace

THE chief executive officer (CEO) of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, has debunked claims made by the immediate past Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, that his two Boeing 777 aeroplanes are on lease rental, and that the airline lacks the capacity to operate.

Onyema, faulting Sirika’s claims on Arise Television on Wednesday, June 14, said the former minister supervised the aviation sector for the last eight years and was expected to have been the chief marketer of the industry, but the reverse was the case.

“Sirika’s claims about Air Peace being incompetent, leasing two aircraft, paying $500,000 monthly for 18 months and incurring $19 million were all falsehoods.

“If Air Peace lacked capacity, the airline, during the ravaging covid pandemic in 2020, wouldn’t have been able to go to China on three occasions and 12 times to India and other countries to bring back Nigerians,” he said.

Sirika had appeared on the same Arise Television on Sunday, June 11, to speak on the controversial Nigeria Air project, and took a swipe at Air Peace.

But on Monday, June 12, Air Peace, through its Chief Operating Officer, Toyin Olajide, debunked Sirika’s claims in a statement.

Onyema clarified that Air Peace did not have two Boeing 777 aircraft but three, and that all were purchased outright.

“We never paid a lease rental to anybody. First, you cannot use $250,000 to rent a triple seven (Boeing 777). So, this is a minister trying to fool the entire nation. He is desperate to fool everybody, to hoodwink the nation.

“The former minister had just peddled pure falsehood to the world on national TV,” the Air Peace chief said, urging anyone “who cares” to contact the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for more facts.

He explained that if an aircraft were to be leased, it would be stated in the application letter preceding its importation.

“They are the regulator. No aircraft comes into the country without the aviation minister approving it. He must be the one to sign the importation permit before you bring them in.

“So, he did all that, and he knows quite well that those planes were not leased, not rented; they were fully paid for,” Onyema maintained.

On why Air Peace is not flying to London, Onyema said the airline had not been given approval for that route due to some regulatory bottlenecks.

As an airline operator, Air Peace needed to have the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) permit, but the airline did not get the Federal government approval at the time, nor its required assistance.

London is the lower hanging fruit for any airline, he said.

“Air Peace does not have the capacity, they say, but flies to China, India, Medina, and South Africa. We do all these routes, but London. Why is it that Air Peace, in the last seven years, has not been able to get into London?” he asked.

He added that the NCAA did not allow Air Peace to enter London for four years because Arik and Medview failed and would not want to be disgraced.

He quickly clarified that all this did not happen under the current NCAA director-general, Musa Nuhu.

Another bottleneck Air Peace faced was getting International Air Transport Association (IATA) audit, which Onyema said Air Peace deserved.

Air Peace was also asked to get the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), which is a lower permit to IATA, and which it did, he revealed.

On the national carrier controversy, Onyema declared that the idea was moribund as countries do not go that route anymore.

“It is a drain on any country’s purse; those operating it are running out of it.

“All that government needs to do is strengthen the ease of doing business so that people and private concerns can invest in the aviation industry,” he said.

He also debunked the talk that Air Peace was afraid of competition if, eventually, Nigeria Air came on board.

He harped on his belief that Nigeria Air, even if it started operation, would fail, noting that some of the “successful” bidders had at one time or the other denied being a part of the project, as announced by Sirika.

He said that Nigerians should thank SAHCO for refusing to put its signature on a project that could shortchange the country.

According to Onyema, Ethiopian  Airlines was only “putting up with Nigeria Air’s charade as the company had tried to play that path with Air Peace but failed.”






     

     

    He revealed how, on April 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines, in a letter, approached Air Peace for collaboration, but it later turned out that it was a trick, the type being done with Nigeria Air.

    He said Ethiopian Airlines wanted to come into Nigeria and do local operations using Air Peace to fly to the whole world, about 150 BASA, and then be paying Air Peace royalties in millions of dollars.

    According to Onyema, he replied Ethiopian Airlines, questioning where the airlines’ collaboration would leave Nigeria, as it was a ploy to kill the airlines in the country, while he and Air Peace would be swimming in money.

    He added that a document he was privy to showed that Nigeria Air’s shareholdings agreement would have Ethiopians at the top leadership position, with Nigerians as deputies.

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