Barrister Allen Ifechukwu Onyema, the founding Chairman and CEO of Nigeria’s aviation behemoth – Air Peace must be a proverbial cat with nine lives. When in early September 2019 Onyema volunteered to bear the cost of repatriating hundreds of Nigerians who were stranded in South Africa following a wave of xenophobic attacks, millions of Nigerians were really impressed. They even declared him as a national hero —many believe, indeed, he was. The altruistic move turned out to be very beneficial to his airline in terms of publicity. Two months later —November 2019 to be precise— the story changed for the billionaire when the United States Government surprisingly accused him of fraud. Many Nigerians were just as shocked to hear the news as they were surprised by his generosity earlier in September.
He has since maintained his innocence, despite the allegations. And as it seems, a lot of the Nigerian public is in support of him. Despite this rollercoaster of events in the last one year that almost tainted his almost perfect businessman’s image, Onyema started 2020 celebrating what could be said to be the most successful year in his company history. In an industry that is intimately familiar with failure, Air Peace confronts a crisis unlike any other. With air travel nearly shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, many airlines bled money as they dropped many airports from their skeletal network and announced layoffs or wage cuts. Besides effectively managing and retaining talent in the industry, the new normal birthed by the disruptive COVID-19 pandemic which almost stifled the sensitive sector, of course, cannot be left out of the laundry list. With the ever-increasing demand for flight and innovative new technologies on the horizon, the coming years are set to be very exciting. Air Peace wasn’t left out but the airline executives think out of the box to stay afloat. Onyema proved to everyone that the modern aviation industry is certainly not for the lily-livered. Amidst these challenges in the new normal, Onyema is acquiring more brand new aircrafts to shore up his airline’s operations. Last week, Air Peace took delivery of a brand new 50-seater Embraer 145 Jet. The ERJ-145 aircraft, with registration number 5N-BXF, flew into the Murtala Muhammed International Airport at about 8 p.m. on Saturday 10 October. “We’re also gearing up to receive two brand new 124-seat capacity Embraer 195-E2 Jets this October; the first set of the 13 we had ordered, with purchase rights for 17 more,” Air Peace Spokesman said.
Spotlight gathered that Air Peace will be the first airline to fly this type of aircraft in Africa. It would also be the first set of 13 E195-E2 aircraft Onyema’s airline has ordered —Air Peace now has 26 aircraft in its fleet. The latest acquisition will help Air Peace deliver on its ‘No-city-left-behind’ initiative while feeding long haul flights —routes including Johannesburg; London; Houston; Guangzhou; Mumbai; and other planned destinations— from its Lagos hub.
Onyema has proven that the future is bright for those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. That’s why as a lawyer with no experience in aviation, he went ahead to bravely launch his airline worth over N45 billion in October 2014 with seven aircraft all named after his family members. He went a step further in ensuring safety by contracting one of the world’s best maintenance organisations, BT Aviation Maintenance Company in the United Kingdom.