Air Peace Chairman, Allen Onyema
  •  Disagrees with AfDB President on safety in Nigeria

MORE criticism is trailing the recent statement credited to the Aviation round Table (ART) calling for government to increase the number of aircraft for attaining Air Operators Certificate (AOC) from two to 20.

This time from the Chairman / Chief executive of Air Peace Mr. Allen Onyema who said that the body cannot just seat and make statements on things they have not experienced.

Mr. Onyema, who spoke with aviation correspondents yesterday in Abuja at the just concluded World Aviation Forum (WAF) stated that there was nothing wrong with the status quo and that all over the world airlines with one aircraft on their fleet operate and that the benchmark of two was not wrong.

The Air Peace boss also decried the excessive charges and taxes imposed on African airlines by the continent’s governments and organisations and condemned the President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Mr, Akinwunmi Adesina for labelling the continent’s airlines as poorly managed, saying that Adesina was ill-informed about the states of the airlines on the continent.

On the 20 aircraft benchmark as prescribed by the ART he said, “in the United States of America there are some airlines with just one aircraft. In fact it can be justified if you have two aircraft and choose to do only Lagos-Abuja or Abuja-Ilorin, the operator can fly around and maintain his capacity. This thing doesn’t affect Air Peace because we have 21 aircraft but what is wrong is wrong. With all due respect people must not posit their old ideas and entrench it as word of authority.”

He also flayed what he described as armchair punditry from individuals that are living in the lost glory of an airline no longer in existence.

He decried that certain positions were put forward to confuse government.

On a paper presentation at the forum by Adesina, which alleged that African airlines were poorly maintained, Onyema, disagreed with the AfDB’s helmsman’s position.

Rather, he emphasised that the continent’s carriers especially airlines in Nigeria were over-regulated by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and insisted they could compete with any airline in the world.

He explained that such comments affected insurance premiums paid by African airlines, which he said were having negative impacts on their performances and financial resources.

He posited that on the average, Nigerian airlines pay at least $2.8m for C-Checks of aircraft while their competitors could carry out such maintenances for a mere $500, 000, adding that insurance premiums paid on aircraft is quadruple of what legacy airlines pay around the world.

Onyema insisted that all Nigerian airlines were as safe as their counterparts in Europe and America despite the harsh operating environment in the country.

“I don’t know what President of AfDB is talking about. Let me tell you something, which you know, NCAA in fact is safety-centric maybe because of the accidents of the past. They hound the airlines into doing the right thing. We are over-regulated by NCAA. What they can allow in America and Europe, NCAA will not allow it here.

“The money we spend to maintain our fleet, the legacy airlines of this world do not spend it. I have never done any C-check that is less than $2.8m, yet all over the world, people do C-Check with $500,000 because some components that will expire in two or three months are still left on the aircraft because they are very close to source of materials unlike here that we have to do everything at a go.

“I disagree with Adesina on that statement because this is impunity the foreign countries hinge on. They tell you Nigeria is unsafe in order to add more insurance premiums for themselves. What I pay as insurance premiums on one aircraft, the legacy airlines of this world would pay it on four aircraft. They tell you Nigeria is unsafe and yet, all of them still scramble to come here. It is what I call international aero politics, which is very bad,” he added.

However, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in a recent statement rated the continent’s airlines very high in terms of safety and maintenance of fleet.

According to the body, African airlines had significantly improved in safety, which explains why there had not been any commercial air accidents among the carriers in the past two years.

Onyema, on high charges and taxes, warned that high charges and taxes on operating airlines in the continent would cripple carriers in Africa.

He lamented that operators on the continent especially airlines in Nigeria pay spurious taxes and charges to government agencies, State Governments and organisations, stressing that unlike in other parts of the world where their airlines were given leeway to boost their operations, the reverse was the case in the country.

He lamented that most of government officials were unfriendly with private investors in the country, saying that rather than helping businesses to grow, they contribute to their early demise by their actions.

“Excess taxation is one of the banes of our aviation industry, it’s one of the things that is stunting our growth in this part of the world and except that is addressed, nothing will happen. But, in order to address that, the Federal Government set up a tax force in which I am a member to look into the issue.”


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