Corporate Governance and Nigerian Airlines

Former Managing Director of Virgin Nigeria Airways and currently the CEO of Ropeways, Captain Dapo Olumid

Chinedu Eze

Industry experts under the aegis of Aviation Round Table (ART) have at various occasions said that one major reason why Nigerian airlines fail was because they are run as “one man show”.

The think-tank body had excoriated the airline owners, saying they don’t listen to expert advice and run their businesses with personal decision in a terrain that is technical, sensitive and known globally as business that has very little profit margin.

Former Managing Director of Virgin Nigeria Airways and currently the CEO of Ropeways, Captain Dapo Olumide, told THISDAY that one of the reasons why airlines in Nigeria fail is lack of corporate governance.

He said an airline should have the kind of people in the board that would question decisions taken that are not good for the sustenance of that company.
He regretted that many Nigerian airlines do not have corporate governance and that explained why some of them went under.

“The only airlines that ever had proper corporate governance, policies and procedures were Nigeria Airways Limited (NAL) and Virgin Nigeria Airways.
“Every airline in Nigeria is family owned and it is the family members who are on the board; therefore, you don’t even need the requirements of the policies and the corporate governance, which is for an independent non-executive director, for example.

Nigeria’s biggest operator, Air Peace last week made bold move to overcome that major ailment of Nigerian operators by appointing eggheads, industry experts and corporate gurus to its board. The board members came with invaluable entrepreneurial acumen and they aim to guide and unravel the vision of the airline to become a major carrier in Africa and in the world.

Renowned lawyer, Chief Emeka Ngige (SAN), former Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company, Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu, former acting Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Mr. Benedict Adeyileka and other new directors of Air Peace said they were ready to work with the carrier’s Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Allen Onyema and Vice Chairman, Mrs. Alice Onyema to deliver on the airline’s vision to transform air travel and project a positive image for Nigeria in the global aviation community.

The new directors of the airline, including the Founder/Chief Executive Officer of Topnotch Integrated Concepts Limited, Ekaete Bassey Okoro, Coordinator of the North East Recovery and Stability Programme (NERSP), Mr. Mohammed Danjuma, the carrier’s Chief Operating Officer, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Olajide and Chief of Administration and Finance, Mrs. Ejiro Eghagha also pledged to contribute significantly in driving the airline to success.
The Chairman of Air Peace, Onyema said the airline is in good hands with the pedigree of its Board Members and expressed the hope that the targets mapped out for the airline when it was established is being actualized.

Onyema however, urged Nigerians with means to invest in the country to complement the economic development efforts of the government, saying he set up the airline primarily to create jobs for the people and give the country a place of pride in the global aviation community.

“The reason I started Air Peace was to create employment opportunities for Nigerians and help in national development, because I know that all the violence and security challenges we are facing will reduce if our youths are positively engaged. I enjoin all Nigerians with means to invest in the country and help to create jobs to complement the efforts of the government,” he urged.

The airline, he assured, would make the country proud with its soon-to-start flights to Sharjah, Dubai, Johannesburg, London, Houston, Guangzhou and Mumbai despite the challenges it was facing from unfair competition and aero politics by some of the countries it planned to operate into with its four Boeing 777 aircraft.

He said the airline was acquiring more narrow-body and wide-body aircraft to deepen its no-city-left-behind project. He said the airline, which recently placed a firm order for 10 brand new Embraer 195-E2 jets and purchase rights for 20 aircraft of the same model, had ordered seven more 50-seater Embraer 145 jets to strengthen its operations under its subsidiary, Air Peace Hopper. The airline had earlier taken delivery of six Embraer 145 jets.
Onyema described the new members of Air Peace Board of Directors as Nigerians who were passionate about efforts targeted at developing the country and creating employment opportunities for the people.

But it has to be noted that while corporate governance is key to driving a business to success, it is pertinent to also look carefully while engaging those that will pilot the affairs of the company whether as Board Members or senior executive staff. For Air Peace, the round pegs seem to have dovetailed with the round holes.