SWITZERLAND, NOVEMBER 26 -In the aftermath of accusation of $21 million fraud and money laundering against Air Peace CEO, Allen Onyema by the United States government, the airline boss has explained how he got the money to set up the business.
In a chat with a popular Nigerian outfit, Onyema briefly addressed how he raised funds to start Air Peace in an April 2017 interview with City People, an entertainment weekly based in Lagos.
In the interview, Mr Onyema expressed his ‘irritation’ about a perennial rumour that he had been fronting for Patience Jonathan in operating Air Peace, saying he had “never met” the former Nigerian First Lady in his life.
He said he grew up in Warri, but moved to Lagos shortly after graduating from the University of Ibadan and becoming a lawyer in 1989. When he moved to Lagos in 1990, he initially joined a law firm, where he worked for a few years before going into real estate.
It was in real estate that he said he became fortunate from selling lands in Lekki and other priced areas in the Nigerian commercial capital.
“By 2008, I was receiving about 18 per cent interest on my deposits. I was building estates from interest alone,” he told City People.
He said it was in 2008 that he discussed launching Air Peace with his wife, and getting a licence for the airline took several years with exhaustive efforts.
“I brought my finances into it (Air Peace) while getting support from the banks too,” Mr Onyema told the magazine.
“When I had gone halfway with the acquisition of my aircraft, I discovered that it was more than I thought. So I borrowed money from the banks.
“Fidelity Bank is there for anyone who cares to see. I pay the bank daily from sales. It is automatic,” Mr Onyema said.
Since then, Mr Onyema said Air Peace has become so successful that commercial banks can no longer pass on any opportunity to do business with it, even as he emphasised that the company was whole owned by him.
“I have integrity and every bank that knows my pedigree like Fidelity would readily do business with me,” Mr Onyema said. “I equally borrowed from Zenith but not as much as I did with Fidelity. This is how I set up my airline. For the record, I own Air Peace 100 per cent.”
In another interview last October, Mr Onyema said Air Peace had a staff strength of 3,000, out of which about 2,000 are women. He spoke glowingly of the dedication of women on his staff, especially top officials like Ms Eghagha whose intelligence and energy he said keep the company flourishing.