Air Peace chairman Onyema laments, says MMIA officials frustrating flight operations

Chairman of Air Peace Airlines, Chief Allen Onyema on easter Monday, recounted how elements within the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, are doing everything possible to frustrate the flight operation of the airline into London, which commenced last weekend.

Narrating a tale of woes, which he said started more than seven years ago with several stumbling blocks deliberately put on the road to the operation, which eventually came to fruition on Saturday, March 30, the airline boss, spoke of how “wicked civil servants” tried to force the plane carrying passengers on the return flight from London to park at a disused terminal near the bush as one of the series of frustrations he had been forced to face in recent past.

A guest on The Morning Show, a breakfast programme on Arise Television, Onyema, stated that it took the decision of the said aircraft’s operators to block planes from other airline operators from accessing their own packing lots for the said officials at the airport to finally bulge and allocate Air Peace the right terminal to park and disembark its passengers.

Though the airline boss did not name the said officials, or the particular arm of the airport administration they belonged, he said the incident on Sunday, was not the first time, adding that he had cause to report the first incident to the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), which took steps to resolve it only for a repeat on Easter Day.

Hear him: “Let me tell you what happened yesterday at the international airport when our own aircraft landed. Thank God I was there. This thing had happened before and we reported to FAAN. Let me excuse the leadership of FAAN here. Mrs. Olubunmi Kuku is doing fantastically well, herself and Director of Air Operations, Captain Abdullahi Mahmoud – they’re pained, they’re pained in the wickedness of the system – civil servants – the wickedness in the system is stinking.

“Your only carrier doing international operations in Nigeria, would land and you keep us somewhere in the bush, disused side of the airport and you expect us to bring rickety buses to take international passengers to the new terminal, where these foreign airlines rejected when they opened. It was Air Peace, because it was my country that decided to go in there. They begged Air Peace to do that. We went in there.

“When they did the runway, they wanted to do the runway analysis after the lighting, it was Air Peace Nigeria begged, they didn’t have money to fuel a triple seven. A triple seven consumes about 8,000 litres of fuel per hour. It was Air Peace they brought. We even told them, let’s use our smaller planes because of the cost, but they said no, it was a triple seven they would need. We did it free of charge.

“I don’t want to enumerate what we have done both for the government and people of this country. Now, in the new airport, they would park us two kilometres away from the terminal and you expect us to be doing bus whatever. That plane that landed yesterday, it would have taken about six hours for people to exit that airport.

“Because, first of all, they put us near NAHCO shed, very far. Nobody is using that end. No aircraft, not even foreign or local. That was where they asked my pilot to park. Meanwhile C-23 at the new terminal was open where you could just park the aircraft and avio-bridge will key in. And when my captain called, they said they reserved it for a foreign airline at the expense of a Nigerian airline.

“They did it before. One of my captains, Captain Callistus Ifeanyi, disobeyed them and they wanted to punish him and I came out and Olubunmi Kuku and the management criticised that in fairness to her. They criticised that. Now, it happened again yesterday.

Our aircraft from London, was to be parked in one bush, two kilometres to the terminal and with full flight. So, imagine the time it would take to take people from that place to the terminal building. Imagine the time it would take to offload. It would have taken about nine hours. Nigerians would have hated Air Peace, because they won’t know. That was the game.

“So, you’re contending not with external conspiracies, but with internal conspiracies within Nigeria. Some Nigerians are praying that we fail. Well, the good thing is that nobody is God. The good thing is that 90 per cent of our country’s men and women are happy. That’s our consolation. But there are people out there, but they’re in the minority, so negligible and I don’t even bother with them, because they cannot scratch Air Peace – whatever they write, whatever they do, cannot scratch Air Peace Airlines.

“Well it happened yesterday and when the woman discovered this, she was livid with rage. I mean the MD of FAAN. But look at what I did. I called my Operations Control Centre who could reach the pilot, because I couldn’t connect with my pilot, I called my OCC, and told them, tell that pilot not to move that aircraft, block that taxiway. No airline in the world would have been able to park yesterday. British Airways landed and that was when they started making moves to tell us to where we rightly belonged.

“Remember, this woman had said on television earlier that a place had been dedicated to Air Peace as the home airline. When you go to Britain, you have the entire Terminal 5 for BA. But in my own country, some civil servants or some people didn’t see it. And the DG of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), was on board my aircraft. About four senior staff of NCAA were on board that aircraft.

“He had to go in because they had delayed the flight for about 30 minutes, standing in one place for 30 minutes. What kind of country is this? So, when the DG who was on board contacted the captain to know what was happening – I think he went into the cockpit and the people in the cockpit contacted the people in the tower – the airport control people and the captain told them that even the DG of NCAA was inside the aircraft, the guy said ‘so what?’

“That will show you some peoples determination not to see beyond their noses. But that wickedness will not last. One thing is that anybody that is fighting me or fighting anything that I’m interested in will have himself burnt and will regret at the end of the day.”

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