AirPeace Vs NigeriaAir: please let Nigerians breath!

AirPeace was on air to tell Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, my President, winner of the 2023 Presidential elections as well as the triumphant party in the recent Supreme Court judgement/ ruling over the elections, who is all in for growing indigenous businesses and 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-led Federal Government, all in an effort to support homegrown and indigenous enterprise. The customs of today says over 1 trillion Naira was lost to such waivers in the last 1 year alone. Back 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 Africas. AirPeace also helped in returning Nigerians from Libya and many more countries, including Saudi and ofcourse Sudan lately. We all applauded AirPeace didn’t we? (See Blueprint of September 24th, 2019).. “The National Assembly has done well in honoring Mr. Onyema and recommending him for national honors 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 my articles that have featured AirPeace. On the 11th of July, 2023, in a piece titled, ‘Dear Max Air’, I had waxed, “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? Do we share in the enthusiasm from 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 do not mean however that you should stop reading. I mean that you should not be swayed by my wordings, into opposing AirPeace’s views and moves. I want you to be the judge for yourself and let’s hear your thoughts on his anti-democratic and monopolistic business moves.

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 favored businessman’s business. Nigeria, Nigerians, and the Federal Government only have a 5% stake in NigeriaAir. More like just the name Nigeria, and ofcourse the ease in doing business accorded to the new airline. 49% is owned by Ethiopia Airlines, including the aircrafts, 3 for starters, and ofcourse 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 FG owned. Nigerians whom have invested in the project, own the stake.

It is very dishonorable 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 Airlines is from Ethiopia and Sudan has Sudan Airlines. So what is so wrong with a Federal Government 5% stake in NigeriaAir? 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 and all, why jitter and shudder? What has Mr. President got to do with you and your courtcase? NigeriaAir in my reckoning is one of the assets from the last administration and doing away with it is governance in reverse gear.

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 and compensations are to be shouldered by tax payers monies. 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 Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi.

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