May 24, 2024

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AON Not Scared of Competition, Demands Protection from Predatory Foreign Carriers

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L-R: Mr. Boss Mustapha, Secretary to Government, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd), President, Sen Hadi Sirika, Aviation Minister, at the commissioning of NAIA Abuja train station

** Members of Airline Operators of Nigeria are not averse to healthy competition

** Air Peace urges AFRAA to intervene in its trapped funds in Cameroon, and other ECOWAS states

** Exorbitant Insurance premium slams on Nigerian airlines threatens profitable operations

** AON appeal to the federal government to compel foreign governments to respect the principles enshrined in the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA).

** Heads of governments of African sovereign states urge to make SAATM, and AfCFTA beneficial to Africans and not colonial masters

** Air Peace is ready to take delivery of 25 brand-new aircraft

The Airline Operators of Nigeria, AON, has refuted the popular notion making the rounds that its substantive suit challenging the entire modus operandi for birthing Nigeria Air was filed because the domestic operators were scared of competition.

Barrister Allen Onyema, the owner of the leading airline on the West coast of Africa, Air Peace, refuted the claim as very far from the truth while fielding questions as the guest of the African Airlines Association’s, (AFRAA) February 2023 edition of the monthly “AFRAA Sky Connect Leadership Dialogues session.”

Another conjecture by AFRAA leadership as to the wherefore and whereto of the litigation as presented by the anchor of the program, Mr. Raphael Kuuchi, Director, Govt., Legal, & Industry Affairs of African Airlines Association, AFRAA, was whether the domestic operators felt threatened of a better organized, and very serious airline with the prospects of a superior management team whose level of professionalism may dwarf the present service delivery level of the entire domestic operators, and even that of those prospecting in air charter.

Barrister Allen Onyema, who also is the substantive Vice President, VP, of AON, told his audience at the February edition of the Skyconnect dialogue forum that none of the suggested reasons in the question was responsible for the litigation.

Onyema said his members were not scared of competition but crave fairness, equity, and transparency in all business dealings by both government and private initiatives that would be prospecting in the air transport sector of the national economy.

Barrister Allen Onyema, Founder, Air Peace Ltd, fielding questions on AFRAA Sky Connect Leadership Dialogue

Kuuchi, who Further pressed his guest to elicit what then was the bone of contention in the litigation, got the response inviting him to follow the hearing being done in the open, at a high court in Lagos.

Onyema himself a barrister at law further explained that he was very mindful of contempt of the court hence, would not dwell on any issue pertaining to Nigeria Air which is already in the temple of justice for adjudication.

Kuuchi also asked if the domestic operators were not lacking in capacity which might have tempted foreign airlines to attempt domestic service in the country.

Onyema cited evidence of the Air Peace airline fleet expansion plan as an example by announcing that the airline had made a firm order for 30 brand new aircraft, from Boeing, and Embraer of which five had arrived.

He said in the course of the new year, Air Peace Airlines is looking forward to the graduated delivery of the remaining twenty-five (25) aircraft to scale up its capacity in readiness for the various regional and international operations the airline is ready to take on.

The AON Vice President called on AFRAA leadership to wade into Air Peace airline’s funds trapped especially in Cameroon, including some regional destinations like Gambia, Gabon Sierra-Leon, and Togo, where ticket sales are yet to be repatriated in addition to the prohibitive charges from the government of most of the states in West Africa.

Mr. Kuuchi asked if the AON had ever worked in unison to confront its operational challenges or perhaps defective government policy, Onyema replied in the affirmative.

The Air Peace Chairman further said some members of AON had formed an alliance named, “Spring Alliance” in order to render impeccable aviation services to travelers, and cargo handlers and to make for ease of service delivery by the airliners.

Mr. Raphael Kuuchi, Director, Govt., Legal, & Industry Affairs of African Airlines Association, AFRAA, moderator of the dialogue

Kuuchi asked if anything was being done to the scheduling that makes nearly all the first flights on a work day from Lagos to Abuja, depart same time at 7 am. Also, he reasoned that proper collaboration might reduce the number of aircraft and drastically improve the load factor. Or to create space in the scheduling at that peak period.

Onyema retorted that Kuuchi’s allusion to interlining and spacing of schedule would cause some aircraft to be parked and could lead to safety issues and could also adversely affect revenue.

Air Peace Chairman said it was in that light that the airline had chosen to widen out to service more destinations on the domestic routes. Onyema said Air Peace would soon launch Kano-Port Harcourt, Port Harcourt-Kano, and Benin-Port Harcourt, and a good machine in Embraer would be deployed for that kind of voyage soon.

The anchor of the very revealing dialogue asked why the largest Nigerian domestic operator, Air Peace, has not leveraged the Single African Air Transport Market, SAATM, and the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA, to boost its regional and continental operations.

Barrister Onyema replied that those trade treaties were fantastic in their letters and spirit, both for SAATM and AfCFTA but, the slug he emphasized was the insincerity of the sovereign states to make the treaties work.

He cited Air Peace airline experience with a neighbouring country whose airline was already doing five weekly frequencies to Nigeria but for months did not respond to Air Peace’s request to reciprocate, in the spirit of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement, BASA, while not asking for anything excess.

Air Peace Chairman added the situation got so bad that after a series of reminders, the neighbouring nation wrote to tell Air Peace management never to write them on that request yet, this neighboring-country registered airline enjoyed unfettered operations in Nigeria.

The moderator asked what manner of intervention came from the federal government of Nigeria in that situation, the guest said nothing but, being a lawyer, he told the airline and its home government they would meet in court for an appropriate interpretation of how BASA Should be applied among nations who are signatories to the treaty.

Onyema said it was after reassuring the airline that its operations in Nigeria would be halted by the court that the government did the needful but lurked in the corners with prohibitive charges while reciprocating its operations to Nigeria.

Raphael Kuuchi however informed his guest that in any altercation on the implementation of the BASA agreement, the AON should bring to the notice of AFRAA, and the Africa Civil Aviation Commission, AFCAC, as both continental agencies have a specialized faculties and skillful personnel adept in conflict resolution on air transport agreements.

In the viewers’ contribution segment, a listener asked what then had the Nigerian government done for aviation to enhance its prosperity and shield the industry from predators’ heinous influence.

The AON VP said the regime of President Muhammadu Buhari had made series of interventions such as the abolition of import duties on spare parts, and on brand-new aircraft, among others.

He noted that the Value Added Tax, VAT, had been expunged from ticket fares. The regulatory authority, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, he added had given them qualified support to operators in their myriads of forms. The Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, had also led a series of battles on behalf of the AON during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The wonderful cooperation he said. made a prompt return to service after the pandemic very possible. The meteoric rise experienced, which had made Nigeria the foremost country in aviation recovery in the world, post-pandemic, was also made possible by the partnership and cooperation fostered by all aviation agencies and airline operators.

Onyema called on AFRAA to see to the exorbitant premium paid by Nigerian airlines to insurers. He said what Nigerian airlines pay as insurance premium for one aircraft could cover that of three aircraft in Western Europe or in the United States.

The Air Peace helmsman described the trend as a booby trap or conduit pipe to drain whatever modest gain made by Nigerian airlines. The matter he said needed very serious urgent attention.

Barrister Onyema’s parting shot was that Africa should unite. African heads of government should stop seeing themselves as appendages of their various colonial masters, and they rather should see themselves first, and foremost, as Africans.

He reiterated that the world’s attention is on Africa, if there is no unity and commitment among Africans; Asians, Europeans, Americans, and Middle Easterners he said, would descend on the continent and plunder both its human and natural resources.

*** This third serial concludes our report of the February 2023 edition of, “AFRAA Sky Connect Leadership Dialogue” which hosted Barrister Allen Onyema, Founder, Chairman, of Air Peace Ltd, operator of Air Peace Airlines. Thanks for your time.

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1 thought on “AON Not Scared of Competition, Demands Protection from Predatory Foreign Carriers

  1. I’m highly educated on the topic of debate and discussion. To the best of all evaluations on the litigation brought by the AON before the Federal High Court in Lagos, there’s no way that a national carrier with a maximum of four aircraft will be a threat to members of the AON with a well-established airline visibly in active operations by the FG proposed National Carrier which looks like a stillborn baby for now. If for any reason that the ministry of aviation is yet to make it public, the conversion of Air Peace to a national carrier will make a lot of economic sense and industry growth in the country’s aviation industry. Otherwise, instead of inviting foreign airlines to float a national carrier. I sincerely suggest that the FG should lease aircraft from the fleet of AON to set up the proposed national carrier right away to protect our status as the giants of Africa that we are. Except otherwise…….

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