Air Peace, Nigeria’s leading carrier and largest domestic carrier in West and Central Africa, is set to change the narrative about Nigeria’s aviation with the launch of its first international operations to Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (UAE) on July 5, 2019. With the planned commencement of operations on this route, Air Peace would be offering travellers from Nigeria the rare opportunity of connecting 23 other destinations from the United Arab Emirates.
The destinations that could easily be connected from Sharjah international airport include: Riyadh, Madina, Jeddah, Beirut, Delhi, Colombo, Dhaka, Mumbai, Kathmandu, Moscow and several others. The chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema, explained that the airline’s international services would give Nigeria and West Africa a sense of pride in the global aviation industry.
He said, “Just this year, we launched a number of domestic and regional routes under our no-city-left-behind project on the platform of our subsidiary, Air Peace Hopper. We also made history as the first domestic airline to acquire and register the Boeing 777 aircraft in Nigeria.
“We also successfully renewed our International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit certificate and Air Operator Certificate after a very rigorous process. We also diversified the aircraft in our fleet with the inclusion of six 50-seater Embraer 145 jets.” But how prepared is Air Peace to take on the task of operating international long haul flights in a highly competitive and foreign dominated terrain? While admitting that he is aware that the challenges would be daunting, Onyema restates that Air Peace is well prepared to ride the storm.
The chairman said: “Before you go into any business, you need to study the business and the environment. You have to know that airline business, for example, is a risky one. What are the factors that have made many airlines in Nigeria to fall by the way side? You really need to know where you are coming from; where the other airlines are coming from and what has been responsible for their failure.
He revealed that Air Peace drew strength from the very strong support it continues to receive from its bank, Fidelity Bank, which he said “has been very supportive and it is because we pay back our loans.” He said the airline’s driving force is to disprove the notion that Nigeria is a failure in the global airline industry. “We have decided to make the difference. We want to prove that we are different and that we are a very resilient people in Nigeria. We have very resourceful people.
They have not been given that opportunity to rise; we are also contending with international aviation politics that is trying to bring Nigerian airlines down. “So, we decided to do things differently, both in the way we run our affairs and in the way we expand. We decided to acquire the single-aisle planes for our domestic operations and we have acquired the wide-body planes for our international long haul flights,” Onyema added.
Aviation experts in the country are worried about what they called ‘toxic local politics’ which the airline is contending with. All over the world, national governments protect their leading carriers. It was the former NCAA DG, Capt. Harold Demuren, that propounded the theory that “you can’t be wrong supporting your own”.
“In Nigeria, however, the reverse seems to be the case, especially regarding Air Peace. In fact, so extreme are some of the measures against Air Peace by organs of government that operators in the sensitive sector are beginning to wonder if there is an organized conspiracy to halt the growth of this airline that is currently providing gainful employment for thousands of Nigerians. “Series of potentially injurious measures have severally been meted out to Air Peace by regulatory authorities but a few of such actions in recent times clearly stand out and are deservedly being widely condemned by industry experts.
One in question is a recent press statement by Nigeria’s Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), which accused Air Peace of concealing serious incidents that involved two of its aircraft between December 2018 and May 2019, thereby preventing it from carrying out thorough investigations on them in order to prevent reoccurrence.” A statement issued by the General Manager, Public Affairs of AIB, Mr. Tunji Oketunbi, alleged that in December 14, 2018, a Boeing 737-300 belonging to Air Peace Airline, with registration marks 5N-BUO, enroute Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu from Lagos, was involved in a serious incident at about 10:44hrs.
Oketunji explained that the airline got the information through the social media, while it was not notified of the occurrence until later in the evening. Oketunbi emphasised that its investigators met the aircraft at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) apron in Lagos where it was parked with the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) affected, thereby posing an undesirable difficulty in the bureau’s bid to successfully discharge its statutory mandate of investigating accidents and serious incidents.
The AIB statement further alleged that on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, a serious incident involving a Boeing 737-300 aircraft with registration Marks 5N-BUK, belonging to Air Peace Limited was also concealed from it. The management of Air Peace as well as seasoned operators in the nation’s aviation industry that are familiar with the incidents, have however disagreed with AIB’s claims that the two occurrences it cited in the press statement were “very serious” warranting such a press statement.
They also affirmed that it was not true, as claimed by the AIB, that the two incidents were not reported to the appropriate authorities as and when due.
By Abdullateef Aliyu