The Anambra State government has set in motion the machinery to work with West Africa’s leading airline, Air Peace, to get Embraer of Brazil, the world’s fourth largest civilian aircraft manufacturer, to locate a service centre for Africa in the state.
Though the details of the state government’s move are not yet made public, it is understood that Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State has since last year been in talks with the Air Peace founder, Chief Allen Onyema, to get the Brazilians to cite the service centre at Anambra International Cargo Airport at Umueri which is still undergoing construction.
At the delivery last week of Air Peace E195 –E2 in Lagos, Chief Onyema made a passionate appeal to the Brazilian embassy in Abuja to advise the Embraer Corporation in Sao Paulo to build a service centre in Nigeria to cater for the African region.
The brand new plane, registered as 5N-BYF, is the first in 13 Embraer aircraft ordered by the airline for its African regional routes.
“As the first carrier in Africa to purchase Embraer’s E series, which is the latest, Air Peace, with our support, is in a strong position to lobby the manufacturer to bring such a centre to our state”, Governor Obiano said today in a virtual discussion with some members of his administration working quietly on the project.
Anambra International Cargo Airport, the second biggest airport in the country, is designed to accommodate at least one hanger to service different kinds of aircraft, according to Air Vice Marshall Ben Chiobi (retired), Special Adviser to Governor Obiano on Creative Security and a former Nigerian Air Force pilot who also used to be the military attaché at the Nigerian Embassy in Paris, France.
When he visited the airport last August, an impressed Chief Onyema pledged to build a hanger there.
“If Air Peace builds a hanger there and Embraer follows suit with an African service centre, the vision of building this modern and large airport on a very large swath of land will have been realized”, stated Chief Obiano.
“We didn’t set out to build just any airport, but a strategic one which will help boost traditional commerce in our state and beyond, but, quiet importantly, result in technology transfer and in the transformation of our economic landscape”.
Meanwhile, the state government has described Chief Onyema as the greatest current promoter of private diplomacy in Nigeria.
“Onyema”, said Governor Obiano in a message to the Air Peace chairman following the acquisition of the new plane from Brazil, “has shown that you need not be in government or hold any public office to effectively promote the interests of your country.
“It is not just in Brazil that he has boosted our reputation far better than any person but also in such places as South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates where Air Peace flies into regularly, with plans to start flying into the United States, India, Israel and the United Kingdom shortly.
“What is more, the excellent safety record of the carrier and the efficient ground and onboard services it provides, coupled with its schedule integrity, have all combined to make it compete effectively with the best airlines in the world.
“We are proud that Chief Onyema, a worthy son of Anambra State, is championing African economic integration, a Nigerian foreign policy plank, through tireless opening of regional routes.
“This is to say nothing about his promotion of national integration and unity by flying every hour to all parts of Nigeria.
“Air travel in Nigeria would have been extremely difficult if not for Chief Onyema who is not driven by the profit motive but service to humanity, starting with fellow Nigerians”.
Air Peace, which commenced commercial operations in 2013, has 30 aircraft in its fleet, with 23 more expected from both Embraer and Boeing Corporation of the United States, the world’s biggest aircraft manufacturer.
C. Don Adinuba
Commissioner for Information & Public Enlightenment.