One of Nigeria’s leading carriers, Air Peace, has debunked the comments made by the former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, that the airline lacks the capacity to operate.
Prime Business Africa reports that Sirika, who appeared on Arise News TV on Sunday to clear himself on the controversies surrounding the unveiling of the new national carrier, Nigeria Air, 48 hours before his exit, alleged that Air Peace had some time in the past incurred losses.
He made the claim while trying to compare the airline with Ethiopian Airlines.
However, reacting to that, Air Peace through a statement signed by the Chief Operating Officer, Toyin Olajide, said the allegations made by the former minister were outrightly false. Olajide said the airline never incurred any such loss.
The statement reads: “We watched with dismay the interview granted by former Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika to Arise TV on Sunday, June 11, 2023, where he made spurious claims about Air Peace, Nigeria’s foremost airline.
“Air Peace deems it absolutely necessary to debunk these false assertions.
“Firstly, Sirika, in his bid to denigrate Air Peace while praising Ethiopian Airlines, 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 is operating 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, to 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 whose 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?” she queried.
Continuing she asked, “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?”
Olajide implored members of the public to disregard the comments of the ex-minister against the airline, adding “We take serious exception to a situation where Air Peace is being misrepresented in the public sphere, causing wrong perceptions about our brand.”