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Air Peace debunks Ex-minister Sirika’s allegation, describes it as spurious lies

The former minister of aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika’s allegation of lack of capacity and competence against Air Peace airline on Arise Television has been described as spurious lies.

 

In a statement issued by the Chief Operating Officer of the airline, Mrs Toyin Olajide, the airline management expressed dismay at the former minister’s outburst, saying: “Air Peace deems it absolutely necessary to debunk these false assertions.

“Firstly, Sirika, in his bid to denigrate Air Peace while praising Ethiopian Airline, stated that we leased ‘two’ Boeing 777 aircraft on a monthly lease fee of $250,000, parked the aircraft for several months and incurred losses of $19 million while all the aircraft engines and landing gears became due for replacement when we were ready to fly. He went on to ask, “who does that?”. He stated that Ethiopian Airlines would never do that.

“This is a blatant lie as we have three and not two Boeing 777 aircraft which were never leased or rented but were purchased outrightly by the airline.

“Air peace never incurred such a loss, we never paid rentals contrary to his lies. The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) can attest to the purchase and ownership of the Aircraft by Air peace.

“Secondly, Sirika said the airline stopped flying to Dubai because ‘we lack capacity’. This is another stark lie.

“Air Peace never stopped the Dubai operations because of lack of capacity.  Air Peace commenced operations into the UAE in July 2019, but in October 2022, the UAE Government announced a total visa ban on Nigerians.

“Neither Emirates nor Air Peace has operated the Nigerian/UAE route since the ban. The persisting non-issuance of visas and the accompanying inconveniences necessitated the suspension of our Dubai operations from November 22, 2022, till date.

“For the former minister to ascribe the suspension to ‘lack of capacity’ is not only shocking but also shows how keen he is to disparage an airline which ascendancy has defied all the commercial odds and hostile environment placed on its path to continue to serve our nation proudly.

“How could an airline that placed a firm order for 13 brand new E2-195 aircraft, a firm order of 15 Boeing 737 Max 8 & Max 10, with over 30 aircraft already in its existing fleet be accused of lacking in capacity?

“How can an Airline that stood up for the entire nation during the Covid-19 outbreak, and embarked on rescue operations worldwide, evacuating Nigerians from far away China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, India, UK and South Africa during the Covid-19 lockdowns be accused of lacking capacity?

“We implore the general public to disregard these lies told by the former minister of Aviation against Air Peace during the Arise TV Interview.

“We take serious exception to a situation where Air Peace is being misrepresented in the public sphere, causing wrong perceptions about our brand.”

The minister during a Sunday interview granted on Arise Television had accused Air Peace airline of lacking in capacity and competency.

Sirika also accused Nnolim Nnaji who branded the launch of Nigeria Air as a fraud of bribery, demanding five per cent shares of the national carrier from him for himself and his people.

“Hon Nnaji asked me that I should give him 5 per cent of Nigeria Air to carry him along with his people.

“I said to him at that time, Honourable, a bidding process has taken place, and some people won. So, I think you should go to those people and ask for the 5 per cent,” Sirika said.

Sirika also criticised Nnaji and the House Committee on Aviation for conducting a “predetermined hearing” on the Nigeria Air project.

“I was a member of the House of Reps 20 years ago, and 10 years ago, I was a Senator,” Sirika said.

“I know the workings of the National Assembly. He [Nnaji] called for a public hearing. And right under the public hearing, he just turned the paper and read the riot act. The practice in the National Assembly is that after hearing people and their complaints, you now go and sit down as a committee, discuss the issues, raise them, approach the whole House of reps and take a position of the House plus leadership and come back and make your findings known, but not immediately you just read the riot Act out. It means is predetermined.”

Nnaji has not yet responded to Sirika’s allegations.

Recall, the Nigeria Air project has been plagued by controversy since its inception.

In 2018, the Federal Government announced plans to launch a national carrier with a $3.7 billion investment from the government and private investors.

However, the project has been delayed due to a number of factors, including concerns about the government’s ability to manage the airline and the lack of a clear business plan.

It is unclear how Sirika’s allegations will impact the Nigeria Air project. However, the allegations have raised further questions about the government’s handling of the project and the viability of the national carrier with many calling for Sirika’s arrest and prosecution.

 

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