…Says Harsh Operating Environment Stunts Growth of Local Businesses
The Chairman of Air Peace, Barrister Allen Onyema, has said the practice of ethnic nationalism has slowed Nigeria’s development while also stressing that the country’s ease of doing business is poor.
Onyema made these statements in an address he delivered on August 28, 2023, at the Annual Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association held in Abuja.
Ethnic Nationalism: Nigeria’s Bane
The Air Peace CEO harped on the issue of regional and tribal nationalism as one of the major banes besetting the Nigerian state and remarked that attaining nationhood with that kind of mindset is impossible.
“It is only when we start fighting for each other that we can have a nation. What we are doing now is fighting against each other which is the bane that has stunted our development. It is not good. Nigerians are fighting against each other instead of fighting for one another. Until we fight for one another, there may never be nationhood. We need to fight for one another”, he maintained.
Stressing the need to embrace broad nationalism and eschew tribal sentiments that have snail-paced the nation’s development across various economic fronts, the aviation cognoscente and lawyer said the Tinubu-led Government should imperatively come up with policies and action plans to unite the country.
No Nationhood, Development in Insecurity
Citing the myriads of insecurity challenges that have bedevilled the country over time, Onyema emphasised that no nation develops in an atmosphere of rancour and insecurity, adding that until these security issues are tackled, the country will continue to grapple with economic problems.
“The issue of Boko Haram insurgency, famers-herdsmen clashes in the North, ritual killings and gangsterism in the South West, separatist violence with the attendant criminal opportunism in the South East, piracy and oil theft in the South South. So, you have a nation where insecurity is the order of the day. Unless this is surmounted, we are going to have economic problems. No country develops in an atmosphere of rancour and insecurity.
“The insurgency has led to the death of thousands of Nigerians. Also, you cannot build nationhood in an environment of insecurity. In the South East, people are hiding under the cloak of being marginalised to commit serious crimes”, he asserted.
On Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria
Onyema said the ease of doing business in Nigeria is low as local investors face a lot of statutory bottlenecks that stifle their growth.
In his words: “We are not serious in this country about encouraging indigenous investments. How do you grow your economy when local investors are being treated with levity and envy by their own ministers? How do you grow your economy when indigenous investments are overtaxed? These same investors are providing jobs for the populace. How do you grow your economy when people in government see you as an enemy, a rival, because they are beclouded by whatever sentiments they believe in, thereby making business difficult.
“Air Peace has about 14 million USD stranded in the Central Bank Nigeria. It is not hidden. We also have about 15 aircraft stranded abroad. After, people will say Nigerian airlines lack capacity. They do not lack capacity; what they lack is truthful government support and ease of doing business.
“Do you know the amount this country spends on aircraft maintenance through its airlines? Air Peace alone in 2022, expended 78 billion naira on maintenance and these funds went to foreign countries. How can local investments grow like this?”.
The Air Peace boss went on to recount how he applied to run a maintenance hangar in 2015 after paying over 100 million naira to FAAN to lease land at the Lagos Airport but added that Air Peace is yet to get the land even eight years after.
He said: “As I speak to you, we are yet to get that land. We are the largest carrier in West and Central Africa and the fastest growing airline in Africa. Yet we do not have a maintenance hangar. Not because we do not have funds to build one. If we had been given the land to build the hangar, by now, Nigeria will have an MRO they will be proud of, and this will attract foreign investments because other countries will come here to maintain their aircraft”.
Govt Needs Radical Political Will for Paradigm Shift
Onyema, who noted that the Nigerian economy is low-ebbed, said with political will, significant progress can be made while urging Nigerians to give this current government time and the benefit of the doubt.
“They(government) inherited a massive governance burden, and the government needs forthrightness, sincerity of purpose, and a radical political will. The government must be decisive enough to confront the entrenched vested interests in the polity. It must do everything to dismantle those interests. Public servants must be statesmen who must be committed to the principles of democratic governance. If this is not done, we are in for a serious problem.
The government must be ready to adopt a hardline commitment to the principles of democratic governance, even in the face of reactionary pressures arising from the entrenched vested interests. All hands must be on deck to make this country work”.