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Allen Onyema: What you didn’t know about the peace advocate behind Air Peace!

Allen Onyema, the chairman of Nigeria’s largest carrier, Air Peace, is a pan-Nigerian and thorough-bred businessman with a strong nationalistic orientation. He has a profound interest in peace advocacy, youth empowerment, aviation, legal practice, and real estate investment.

He is an ambassador of the One Nigeria project, with a track record of deploying resources to key initiatives for promoting peaceful coexistence and productively engaging the Nigerian youth. Born on March 28, 1964, Onyema, who is from Mbosi in Ihiala, Anambra State is a result-oriented and decisive conflict resolution veteran.

“For his impact in his community, he was conferred with the title of Obata Obie Mbosi; in 2006, Africa News Magazine honoured him with the Hope for Humanity Award.”

At the completion of his secondary school education, he decided to give his gift of peace advocacy some professional touch when he secured admission into the prestigious University of Ibadan for a Bachelor of Laws (LLB).

It was at the University of Ibadan that Onyema’s zeal for peace-building compelled him to lead a group of nine other students to Zaria to quell a raging religious and ethnic riot that claimed lives. As a result of the success achieved, their enthusiasm grew, leading to the formation of a body known as the Eminent Friends’ Group, set to promote ethnic harmony in Nigeria.

While at the Nigerian Law School, Onyema combined his professional training with social activism aimed at engendering peace in Nigeria. He was called to the bar in 1989 and started his legal practice at Nwizugbo & Company in 1990. He set up his own law firm, Onyema & Co., and a property firm, Allen Onyema & Company.

Despite his huge success in legal practice and business, Onyema was not quite satisfied. He put all that aside for his passion for peace advocacy by establishing the Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria (FEHN) as a platform to organize his peace efforts across Nigeria.

In 2005, he invited Americans from the University of Rhode Island Centre for Nonviolence and Peace Studies, Kingston, Rhode Island, USA, to train him and his staff in nonviolent conflict management. He obtained the Levels 1, 2, and 3 Certificate in Nonviolence Conflict Management from the same institution. A few years later, Onyema bagged a Certificate in Nonviolence Leadership from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

When the Niger Delta militancy became intractable, he stepped up to the challenge. He risked his life by embarking on countless peace missions to the troubled region. He trained over 30, 000 fierce Niger Delta militants without any clashes. Onyema has also been funding the Arewa Transformation and Empowerment Initiative (ATEI), which has been a platform for reorienting youths of northern extraction.

He solely funded the first Nigeria Forever Project between 2004 and 2005. This programmed was executed in the 36 states of the federation, recording a remarkable success.

In September 2017, he invited Bernard Lafayette and his nonviolence education team from the US to train the Arewa, IPOB, and Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) agitators for five days in Lagos. After the five-day training, the agitators buried the hatchet.

Onyema later sponsored almost seventy leaders of different groups who participated in the first part of the programme on the second phase of the training at Emory University, Atlanta, USA. He spent over N300 million on this. He won for Nigeria the hosting rights of the Global Conference on Nonviolence and Peace, held in Abuja from December 3–5, 2007.

Driven by the desire to create jobs, in September 2014, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) finally issued Onyema an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) to commence operations under the brand name Air Peace Limited (APL).

He has also embarked on a lot of corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects to lift society. He had donated an entire police station building in Uli, Anambra State, to enhance the security of life and property; in Yobe State, he donated relief items worth millions of naira to internally displaced persons.

For his impact on his community, he was conferred with the title of Obata Obie Mbosi; in 2006, Africa News Magazine honoured him with the Hope for Humanity Award.

A year later, Onyema was conferred with the Martin Luther King Jr. Global Award of Excellence for institutionalising nonviolence education and culture in Nigeria and West Africa. He was honoured in the United States by the Mayor of Tuskegee with the city’s Honours Badge in 2009. Again, in 2012, the Eminent Friends Group International (EFGI) gave him the Pan Nigeria Nationalist Award.

For his peace advocacy, the chairman and chief executive officer of Air Peace was appointed to the Executive Board of the Global Nonviolence Conference Series, Inc., USA, with notable world leaders Andrew Young and Suarez Ramos as members. With this appointment, confirmed in April 2007, he became the second African ever to be appointed to the Global Board.

He has also been using sports as a tool for creating employment and securing peace. Since 2010, Onyema has assumed full sponsorship of over 43 football teams in eastern Nigeria, as well as building football pitches. He has made enormous donations to the national teams.

In 2021, he engineered a four-year Air Peace-NFF sponsorship deal for the Nigerian National Teams, with an initial investment of N300 million. In 2022, he honoured specific Nigerian sports heroes with free flights for life and has taken on the responsibility of building a Wall of Fame for them. The same year, he announced a priority boarding policy for Nigeria’s military officers—serving and retired—for their huge sacrifices for the nation.

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Onyema was listed by the Nation Newspapers as one of the 10 Most Outstanding Chief Executives in 2016. He has also been named by the Nigeria Entrepreneurship Summit and Honours as one of the most impactful investors in Nigeria.

 

For his inspirational leadership in the corporate world, he was conferred with an honorary Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) by Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Anambra State, in November 2018. In September 2019, Onyema further etched his name in history as he evacuated 503 Nigerians from South Africa amidst xenophobic attacks.

Learn More: South Africa’s unequal society still divided by race

Other awards for his impact in aviation and immense contributions to the socio-economic development of the nation are: The Voice of Women LifeTime Achievement Award; the Philanthropist of the Year from the 2019 Pink Awards; Tourism Personality of the Year 2019 by Nigerian Tourism/Balerica Award; and the Star Award for Patriotism by Crime Reporters Association of Nigeria; Most Admired CEO 2020, by The Nigerian Business Leadership Awards (Business Day Newspaper); Exceptional Philanthropist of the Year (Sun Newspaper Awards 2020); the 2021 University of Ibadan Alumnus of the Year; Businessman of the Year (Independent Newspaper Awards 2021); Extraordinary Achievement Award (Silverbird Man of the Year Awards 2021); 2022 Man of the Year Award(Alumni Association of Government College, Ughelli); the National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) Award 2022; Princeton Leadership Award 2022; Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria(FCIBN) 2023; and Doctor of Management Science Degree from the Nigerian Defence Academy 2023.

Fleet size and connecting cities:

From starting in 2014 with a record fleet of seven aircraft to earning the appellation of West and Central Africa’s largest carrier, Air Peace, under the leadership of Allen Onyema, has continued to evince strength, reliability, and consistency, becoming the aviation pride of Nigerians.

The airline has not only put Nigeria’s aviation industry on the map; it has also shown the world that a Nigerian airline is capable of globally acclaimed feats across all fronts, including a matchless safety culture. The airline took delivery of five brand new 124-seater Embraer 195-E2 aircraft, the first of its kind in Africa.

The airline became Embraer’s launch customer for this aircraft model in the whole of Africa. These deliveries were part of the 2018 firm order for 13 E195s with purchase rights for 17 of the same aircraft. Meanwhile, the airline also has existing orders for 10 Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 5 Boeing 737 MAX 10 aircraft in its bid to gradually phase out the current Boeing 737 fleet.

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Taking its fleet modernization strategy a notch higher, Air Peace signed another milestone deal—a firm order for five brand-new Embraer 175 aircraft and a planned maintenance facility with support from Embraer to service the aircraft locally. The acquisition does not only make Air Peace the airline of the future, but it is also in line with its determination to become the operator of the largest and youngest fleet of aircraft in Africa. It reinforces its commitment to enhancing its domestic and regional network connectivity and paves the way for further regional expansion.

This firm order is valued at USD 288.3 million. Cumulatively, these add up to 28 aircraft in concrete order. In the history of Nigeria’s aviation industry, no airline has ever placed such an ambitious order.

Air Peace, dominating Nigeria’s aviation industry under Onyema, has continued to set records that have remained unbroken, blazing the trail in route and fleet expansion to meet the increasing travel demand of its markets.

The airline operates a mixed fleet of 13 Boeing 737s, 1 Dornier 328-300 Jet, 3 Boeing 777s, 8 Embraer 145s, 5 Embraer 195-E2s, and 10 Airbus 320s.

No-city-left-behind:

The airline is reputed for its no-city-left-behind catchphrase and seeks to achieve this ambition through the acquisition of ultra-modern aircraft, offering Nigerians world-class flight services.

Air Peace, the airline of choice, commenced commercial operations in 2014, less than 10 years ago, but has steadily shown immense growth and now boasts 20 domestic routes and eight regional and seven international destinations, including International Jeddah, Guangzhou, Mumbai, Tel Aviv, Dubai, Johannesburg, and London. launched recently.

The government of Antigua and Barbuda plans to partner with Air Peace to revive the Caribbean national carrier LIAT under a new name. Following an agreement between both parties, Air Peace will acquire a majority stake in LIAT.

This partnership is expected to boost Air Peace’s international flight operations.

Humanitarian activities:

The country’s largest carrier, under Onyema’s leadership, has been actively involved in humanitarian efforts to evacuate stranded Nigerians from various crisis-hit regions. Last year, 277 Nigerians who were stranded at the Egyptian border due to the crisis in Sudan were successfully evacuated by Air Peace.

 

This commitment aligns with his previous actions, such as freely airlifting 503 stranded Nigerians during the xenophobic attacks in South Africa in 2019 and participating in repatriation efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, evacuating over 300 stranded Nigerians from Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. Additionally, bringing home stranded Nigerians from India and evacuating Nigerians at the onset of the Ukraine-Russia crisis.

Air Peace’s commitment to humanitarian efforts demonstrates its dedication to ensuring the safety and well-being of Nigerian citizens, even in challenging circumstances. While these actions occurred during various crises, it’s important to recognize the airline’s role in providing assistance when needed most.

Credit :- businessday

Allen Onyema: What you didn’t know about the peace advocate behind Air Peace!

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