AirPeace vs NigeriaAir: Please let Nigerians breathe

AirPeace was on air to tell Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, my president, winner of the 2023 presidential election as well as the triumphant party in the recent Supreme Court judgement/ruling over the election, who is all in for growing indigenous businesses, who has inherited Baba Buhari’s assets and liabilities: to dump Nigeria Air, arguing that IbomAir is bringing in 10 new airbuses and he, ‘Airpeace’, is also bringing 33 new airplanes; and there is no need for Nigeria Air. 

Well, Air Peace is one of those business entities that benefitted immensely from huge tax waivers and import duties from the previous Buhari government, all in an effort to support homegrown and indigenous enterprises. The Customs said over N1 trillion was lost to such waivers in the last one year alone. In 2019, AirPeace was gracious enough to help in the repatriation of Nigerians trapped in South Africa, as they suffered xenophobic attacks from their fellow Africans.

AirPeace also helped in returning Nigerians from Libya and many more countries, including Saudi and of course Sudan lately. We all applauded AirPeace, didn’t we? (See Blueprint of September 24, 2019).. “The National Assembly has done well in honouring Mr. Onyema and recommending him for national honours and I believe my own hopes and aspirations for him were well represented in that. I saw Mr. Onyema break down in tears as he was hailed and celebrated by the Nigerian returnees from South Africa who were singing the National Anthem.”

Permit my indulgence one more time. On July 11, 2023, in a piece titled, ‘Dear Max Air’, .. “A stitch in time saves nine and we switched airlines and boarded AirPeace. My first experience and it was exquisite and almost like an International flight. The crew were courteous, professional and purposeful. They made us feel relaxed and consoled. The aircraft was cooler, bigger and more comfortable. I gobbled the in-flight snack in hurried delight. The weather was bad but the flight was good and stable and I have vowed to be an AirPeace customer henceforth. So, are you with me regarding AirPeace? The enthusiasm in the airlines’ patriotism and my experience in their well operated flights? Well, I need you to not be with me in the next paragraph. I want you to be the judge for yourself and let’s hear your thoughts on this one.

I am not with Mr. Allen Onyema’s unfortunate recent media outing, calling on Mr. President to shut down the proposed NigeriaAir. If a businessman is asking you to shutdown another business then there is only one reason: the competition that the business brings, most especially when the competition is good, viable, and a threat to your favoured businessman’s business. Nigeria, Nigerians, and the federal government only have a 5% stake in NigeriaAir. 

More like just the name Nigeria, and of course the ease in doing business accorded to the new airline. 49% is owned by Ethiopia Airlines, including the aircraft, three for starters, and of course landing rights to a lot of International destinations, without any BASA (Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement) accreditation bottlenecks. The remaining 51% stake or ownership of NigeriaAir is owned by Nigerians in a consortium of SAHCO, MRS and other institutional investors.

The airline was advertised during the procurement stage and members of the Airline Operators of AON, participated. Unveiling of the NigeriaAir was stalled by so many factors especially the court cases instituted by Mr. AirPeace. But why? AirPeace planes and crew are largely foreign. So, if it operates with ‘foreign limbs’, what is so indigenous about it, which gives it the moral standing to be averse to 51% Nigeria owned NigeriaAir? Mark you, Nigeria owned not federal government owned. Nigerians whom have invested in the project, own the stake. 

It is very dishonourable for AirPeace to come for NigeriaAir. The Nigeria that helped him build AirPeace with concessions, tax and import duties waivers. The Nigeria that stood by him in Dubai, UK and Saudi, to list a few. Why wouldn’t you allow other operators in a level playing field? Why shoot down other Nigerians from investing in a national carrier? Egypt has Egypt Air, so does UAE have Emirates Airlines.

Ethiopia Air is from Ethiopia and Sudan with Sudan Airlines. Why won’t you be the business maverick and apply for a change of name to: PeaceNigeria, or NewNigeria Air or even Nigeria Airways (if all the liabilities have been cleared)? How you make your bed is how you lie in it. If AirPeace services are so good, routes, timing, comfort and International compliance, why jitter and shudder? What has Mr. President got to do with you and your court case? 

As much as I have been a fan of AirPeace I do not subscribe to the cancellation of NigeriaAir, as envisaged by AirPeace’s mission on air these days, especially if: 1. The consequences including penalties/court cases to be shouldered by tax payers’ money. 2. If no fraud is detected in the conceptualisation of NigeriaAir. Does it bode well for our reputation as a government that pulls out from international business/bilateral agreements? Lord no! Do we want to pull out of the Nigeria/Siemens power deals? Or perhaps the Ethiopian president needs to pay Nigeria a visit on behalf of Ethiopia Air, in the manner of the German chancellor’s visit to Nigeria recently. 

Tahir is Talban Bauchi. 

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