Since the past 30 years Nigerian airlines have been major operators in the West Coast destinations, including Central and West Africa. Before the incursion of the Chinese into the West African market, Nigeria businessmen and women held sway in the sub-region, providing goods and services to the growing market in the cities in West and Central Africa that till today Nigerian made products like Milo, Bournvita, Indomie and Nigerian electric cables remain household items in many parts of the sub-region.
So the destinations in the sub-region have remained veritable and robust market for Nigerian carriers from the days of the Nigeria Airways Limited to the time Bellview Airline held sway to the time Virgin Nigeria Airways survived on proceeds from the West Coast and the foray of Arik Air to all major cities in West and Central and farther to Angola.
What is significant about these destinations is that there is always Nigerian community yearning for Nigerian carriers to connect them so that they could be taken home regularly.
That was also what happened on Thursday last week when Nigerian residents celebrated the inaugural flight of Nigeria’s biggest carrier, Air Peace when it landed at the Douala international airport amid heavy downpour.
Not deterred by the rain, excited Nigerians and Cameroonians waving Nigerian/Cameroon flags welcomed the Nigerian carrier with so much excitement and fanfare.
The President of Nigerian Community in Doula region, Mr. Bartholomew Okwuja who expressed so much happiness at the decision of Air Peace to start flight service to Douala said direct connection between Nigeria and Cameroon was a dream come true and regretted the challenges Nigerians and others face trying to come to Nigeria by road, by sea or by air. He said there is security threat on the road, on the water, the fear of drowning; conceding that some people had lost their lives going to Nigeria through the waters. He also said that it was very costly flying to Nairobi or Addis Ababa and connecting flight to Nigeria for a destination, which a direct flight can do for 40 minutes.
“Air Peace flight to Douala is going to solve so many problems for us, making our journey to be fast. You know as a businessman, time is money. And once you get something that can enable you to save your time, automatically you are saving money and you are making more money. So it is already a good step forward between Nigeria and Cameroon. It is not only we from the South even the Cameroonian people that are going to do business will also use the same route to make sure that they get what they want on time, safe and in peace.
“Do you know that there are a lot of challenges, like passing through the water, it is a horrible thing? So many people are being drowned in the water, boats being destroyed and so on and so forth. It has been horrible. On the road as well, a lot of accidents take placed and bandits can attack travellers. But I think now with Air Peace that is available, the problem is already solved. And we want to thank God. It is a very good initiative, wonderful, fantastic. I cannot imagine how to put it.
“It is a big victory that we have one of our own airlines coming here, we can go home without passing through other countries. And as you know, it will boost trade, investment tourism for both countries. As you know, Doula is the economic hub of the republic of Cameroon, just the way Lagos is to Nigeria. So it is a big win, win for both countries,”Okwuja said.
Addressing the dignitaries and others who welcomed the airline at Douala airport, Air Peace Ground Operations Manager, Mr. Ayodeji Adeyemi said the airline was delighted to launch flight service to Douala.
“I feel excited that today, Air Peace, West Africa’s largest carrier, is making its entry into Cameroon from Lagos, Nigeria. We are delighted this launch is happening, as we believe both countries will benefit enormously from it in the areas of employment creation, promotion of tourism, facilitation of a seamless movement of people and other forms of economic value.
“Air Peace is famed for its no-city-left-behind initiative, which is driving our route expansion. The extension of our wings to Douala is resultant from our vision to create affordable and safe air travel for Africans, with our signature hospitality, connecting various cities across Africa, especially the West Coast, thereby fostering socio-economic integration.
“Air Peace is committed to excellence and we’re bringing this excellent service to Cameroonians. The airline has recorded tremendous feats in just seven years and now operates 19 domestic routes, six regional routes and two international destinations (United Arab Emirates and South Africa) with a varied fleet of 28 aircraft, including three ultramodern Embraer 195-E2 airplanes,” he said.
Adeyemi also disclosed that the airline has plans to start other international routes, such as Houston-USA, Mumbai-India, Guangzhou-China and London.
“We’re constantly reviewing our route network to reflect the needs of the flying public,” he added.
The Nigerian Consul-General to Cameroon, Mrs. Efe A. Clark-Omeru who cut the cake to usher in Air Peace into Cameroon, said that the airline’s flight service to the Central African country would reinforce the cordial relationship between the two countries and open more business opportunities for citizens of both nations.