By Adekunle Williams and Solomon Asowata
Nigerian carrier, Air Peace, has signed a multi-million dollar agreement with aircraft manufacturers, The Boeing Company, for the purchase of 10 brand new B737 Max aircraft.
The agreement was signed on Thursday at the United States Consulate in Lagos by the Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema and Boeing Sales Director for West and Central Africa, Mr Larry Tolliver.
Speaking at the ceremony, Onyema said each of the Max B737 aircraft cost $113 million, but Boeing was gracious to reduce it to an undisclosed amount for Air Peace following series of negotiations.
He said the procurement of the aircraft, which is the latest by Boeing, was being financed by Fidelity Bank and they would be deployed for Air Peace international operations.
According to him, the addition of the new planes, which will be delivered soon by Boeing, will increase Air Peace fleet to 37 aircraft in less than four years of operation.
Onyema said :” We have just signed an order for 10 B737 aircraft from Boeing. We are interested in creating employment for our people because one of the aircraft can create 500 jobs.
“We are trying to curb insecurity by creating job opportunities for our people. Air Peace currently has about 3,000 employees, and I believe that is part of our contribution to national development.”
He thanked the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration for the support given to Nigerian airlines, noting that the anti-corruption campaign of the government had improved the confidence of the international community in Nigerian businesses.
Onyema, however, appealed to the government to find ways of establishing local refineries in order to reduce the high cost of aviation fuel which was affecting the operations of airlines in the country.
Also, the US Consul General, Mr John Bray, said the agreement between both companies would further deepen the relationship between Nigeria and the US.
Bray said it was a win-win situation for both countries because the deal would create about 3,000 jobs in Nigeria while about 5,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector would be created in the US.
On his part, Tolliver said the B373 Max aircraft was the fastest aircraft manufactured by Boeing and consumes about 40 per cent less fuel than other Boeing aircraft currently being used by Air Peace.
He said the aircraft also had passenger appeal because of the modern facilities on-board, stressing that Boeing would be supporting Air Peace with training and maintenance spares as part of the agreement.
Speaking on the financing of the procurement, the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank, Mr Nnamdi Okonkwo, said Air Peace had proven its integrity in previous loans given to the airline by the bank.
He said :” We are proud to have Air Peace as a customer because the airline has integrity and has always paid ahead of time in previous aircraft purchases financed by Fidelity Bank.
“I know some airlines have gone down in the past due to huge indebtedness to banks, but I can tell you that Air Peace is not owing anybody, and this is because of the prudence of the airline’s management. ”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Federal Government has granted approval to Air Peace to begin flights to six international destinations which are London, Dubai, Sharjah, Guangzhou-China, Mumbai and Johannesburg in the next few months.