Leading Nigerian aviation company, Air Peace, has alleged that former Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika peddled blatant lies against it in the recent interview he granted a popular television station.
Sirika made the assertions about Air Peace while trying to defend himself against controversies that followed his the launch of Nigeria Air air craft in his last day in office.
The Airline Operators of Nigeria in which Air Peace is a major player had also opposed the launch of the Nigeria Air.
But Air Peace, in a statement signed by its Chief Operating Officer (COO), Mrs. Toyin Olajide on Monday said the claims by Sirika against it in the television interviews were not factual.
“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 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 till date,” the airline said.
Air Peace also said the claim by Sirika on the television programme that it suspended its operation due to ‘lack of capacity’ was not only shocking but also showed 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 airline also said.