Chairman/chief executive officer of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema, has urged Nigerians to drop their ethnic sentiments in favour of building a united and peaceful nation.
Onyema made the call after he was conferred with an honourary Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) at the 9th Convocation Ceremony of the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Anambra State on Saturday.
Onyema, who also donated N70 million towards the university’s infrastructure project and pledged the setting up of Nigeria’s first Centre for Nonviolence and Peace Studies in the institution, regretted that ethno-religious conflicts were pulling the country apart.
“I want to help education. I want to fight the incidence of violence and ethnicity in this country. The greatest bane of our development is ethnicity. That is why I want to set up the first Centre for Nonviolence and Peace Studies for them (Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Anambra State) by collaborating with the university and making it an elective course for students, so that people will start learning how to manage conflict.
“Conflict is a catalyst for change but it depends on how you manage it. The institute I want to set up here will help Nigerians with the ways and means of managing conflicts to achieve better results,” Onyema said.
The Air Peace boss, who said he was proud of his contribution to dousing ethnic agitations in the Niger Delta and other flash points in the country through his organisation, The Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria (FEHN), assured that he was determined to fix the challenges of the nation’s aviation sector with his airline.
He urged the Federal Government to resist the temptation to set up a national carrier, insisting that experience around the world had proved that the model was at best a drain on lean public resources. Ethno-religious violence, Onyema assured, could always be efficiently tackled through education and provision of employment opportunities for Nigerians.
He said Air Peace had continued to lead the way in job creation with the provision of tens of thousands of direct and indirect employment to Nigerians without ethnic considerations as part of the carrier’s contribution to the nation’s economic development.
He confirmed that Air Peace currently had 27 aircraft in its fleet, besides the firm order it recently placed with Boeing for 10 brand new B737 Max 8 aircraft. He said the airline had demonstrated doubtless capacity to fix the challenges of seamless flights on the domestic and international routes.
“Today, we operate into 14 domestic and five regional destinations, with plans for the inauguration of our long-haul flights to Dubai, Sharjah, London, Houston, Guangzhou-China, Mumbai and Johannesburg nearing completion,” he said.
Thanking Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University for honouring him, the Air Peace boss urged the Federal Government to continue to accord Nigerian businesses the needed support to empower them to speed up the nation’s socio-economic development.