CHAIRMAN/Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema has decried that Nigerian insurance companies were taking advantage of airlines even when they can not insure a single Boeing 737 aircraft and have called on lawyers to take an interest in aviation law positing that most lacked knowledge to represent airlines adequately leading to the airlines suffering from unfavourable policies.
This is as he canvassed for Nigerian lawyers to embolden themselves and ask for representation when airlines are negotiating or acquiring aircraft just as insurance lawyers have done in the past.
Onyema who challenged lawyers in the country to think outside the box and position themselves to benefit from the boundless opportunities the aviation sector offers gave the advice at the Nigerian Bar Association-Section on Business Law, Aviation Committee Conference tagged: “Unlocking the Potential of Aviation Law and Practice in Nigeria” held in Lagos yesterday.
The Air Peace boss, who was one of the discussants of the topic of the second session of the conference, “The Scope of Legal Practice in Nigeria’s Aviation Sector: Creating Opportunities for Lawyers”, urged young lawyers to take special interest in aviation law to ensure the sector was properly served, saying it was a disservice to the country that only a handful of its lawyers could properly handle aviation briefs.
“We are not there. We need to tell ourselves the truth. Look at consumer rights. I am talking from the position of both a lawyer and an airline operator. When some lawyers write you on behalf of their clients, saying ‘Air Peace did this, Air Peace did that’, you’ll weep. Sometimes I pick up the phone and call the lawyer and say, ‘What have you just done? You’re not representing your client well. Did your ask your client questions?” Sometimes they even cite non-existent conventions…There are a lot you (lawyers) can do. I am only trying to challenge you, I’m not putting you down,” he explained.
Onyema advocated a law making lawyers’ involvement in the acquisition of aircraft and other key aspects of the aviation industry mandatory, saying a lot of the rules regulating airline business in the country were impracticable.
“Except lawyers begin to get their acts right, the aviation industry will continue to go down. I am even soliciting that it should be made compulsory that every aspect of negotiation or acquisition of an aircraft, a Nigerian lawyer should be there. You people should fight for it. The insurance industry fought for theirs, making it compulsory to go through a Nigerian insurance company before you can insure your aircraft. And let me tell you, all the insurance companies in Nigeria put together cannot insure one Boeing 737, yet you’re forced to go through them before you can get to the Lloyd’s of this world. But where are the lawyers? This is where you should come in?” he said.