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7 Nigerians who established airlines you may not know



Air travel is still a luxury in Nigeria and the economic situation in the country is making matters worse. As much as travelling by air is the fastest way to reach your destination, many Nigerians cannot afford the cost. However, there are Nigerians who own airlines that you may not know. Some of them are well-known personalities in other aspects of life while others are silent billionaires.

Most of these airlines operate domestic flights within Nigeria where travellers can fly to Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Enugu, Calabar, Abuja and other major cities within the country. Few operate both domestic and international flights. So, it is safe to say international flights in Nigeria are mostly offered by international airline corporations.

Still, owning an airline is not an easy feat, considering the many challenges that burden businesses in the country. So, who are these Nigerians who own airlines?

Nigerians who own airlines you don’t know

1. Valentine Tongo – Allied Air

Valentine Tongo - Allied Air

Valentine Tongo, popularly known as Val Tongo, founded Allied Air Cargo in 1998. He is currently the Chief Executive Officer and principal owner of the airline. Allied Air operates scheduled and charter services in Nigeria and throughout Africa. With its main base at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, Allied Air Cargo is one of the leading West African airlines which operates a fleet of three aircraft of Boeing 737-400F cargo planes. Allied Air offers trips to destinations such as Accra, Freetown, Monrovia, Abidjan, Banjul, Cotonou, Dakar, Douala, Entebbe and Malabo. Allied Air is also the first IATA Operational Safety Audit Program (IOSA) certified cargo airline in Africa.

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2. Allen Onyema – Air Peace

Allen Onyema - Air Peace

Allen Ifechukwu Onyema, CON, is the owner and Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, an airline he founded in 2013. Air Peace is the largest airline in Nigeria and West Africa., with numerous flight operations in major cities in Nigeria and many African and Middle Eastern countries. In 2018, the airline established a subsidiary named Air Peace Hopper. As of January 2022, Air Peace has about eight operational aircraft, with about 17 grounded for maintenance.

3. Abdulmunaf Yunusa Sarina – Azman Air Services LTD

Abdulmunaf Yunusa Sarina - Azman Air Services LTD

Alhaji (DR.) Abdulmunaf Yunusa Sarin is the owner of Azman Air Services Limited. He was born on January 7, 1958, at Sarina Town in Garko Local Government Area of Kano State. He established Azman Air in 2010 but the airline began operations from its main base in  Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano in 2014. The airline began operations with 2 Boeing 737-500 aircraft for its domestic services. In October 2017, Azman Air leased a used Airbus A330 from an Egyptian charter airline (the now defunct Air Leisure) to fly to international routes to both the Middle East and Asia.

However, it discontinued international operations in February 2020. It also suspended domestic operations in 2023.

4. Ahmadu Chanchangi – Chanchangi Airlines

Ahmadu Chanchangi - Chanchangi Airlines

Alhaji Ahmadu Chanchangi founded Chanchangi Airlines on January 5, 1994. The airline had its headquarters in Kaduna State. As of 2009, Chanchangi Airlines had six aircraft with over 780 employees. The airline won the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Corporate Merit Award for “Best Domestic Airline of the Year” in 1998, 1999 and 2000. However, Chanchangi Airlines ran into problems when the Federal Government grounded the airline on grounds that its operations were not safe on December 10, 2005.

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However, on December 22, 2005, the airline was granted permission to resume operations. Between 2005 to 2010, the airline went through some challenges, including a lawsuit from Ethiopia Airlines claiming Chanchangi Airlines owed millions of naira for maintenance services. In 2012, Chanchangi Airlines ended operations. On April 19, 2017, Alhaji Chanchangi died along Kaduna-Abuja Road, on his way to a hospital.

5. Kayode Odukoya – Firstnation Airways

Kayode Odukoya - Firstnation Airways

Kayode Odukoya was the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of First Nation Airways Ltd, a private Nigerian airline. The airline began operations in October 2013. In 2018, the  Nigerian authorities suspended the airline’s operations after Odukoya was arrested and remanded by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission over the alleged theft of N1.7 billion.

6. Isyaku Rabiu – IRS Airlines

Isyaku Rabiu - IRS Airlines

Isyaku Rabiu is a Nigerian billionaire businessman and the younger brother to the Chairman of BUA Group, Abdul Samad Rabiu. He founded the IRS Airlines Limited in 2002. The company, whose slogan was Now you can go places, was based in Abuja. It offered scheduled destinations to Abuja, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Maiduguri and Yola. In 2013, the airline ceased operations.

7. Obiora Okonkwo – United Nigeria Airlines

Obiora Okonkwo - United Nigeria Airlines

Dr. Obiora Okonkwo is a Russian-trained political scientist, businessman and entrepreneur. He is the Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, established through Private Airline Services Limited (PASL). Okonkwo also chairs the boards of several other companies, including the Dome Entertainment and Hospitality Limited, an umbrella organisation comprising the Summit Restaurant and Lounge; the Camelot Spa and the Bodytrust Health and Fitness Bar. Others are the Francis Hotel, the Bowling Alley, Twins Café and Bakery, Noni’s Pizza and Solicom Engineering Limited.

United Nigeria Airlines is the first post-pandemic airline in the aviation industry in Nigeria. The airline got its Air Operators Certificate (AOC) on February 1, 2021, and has its headquarters at the Enugu International Airport. With four aircraft on ground, scheduled flights operated in nine Nigerian cities, including Abuja, Anambra, Asaba, Bayelsa, Delta, Enugu, Imo, Lagos and Port Harcourt.

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