Nigeria: U.S. Indictment - South-East Governors Ask Buhari to Protect Onyema

5 December 2019

Governors of the South-east states have expressed support for the Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, who was recently indicted for fraud by the US authorities.

The United States Department of Justice had accused Onyema of moving more than $20 million from Nigeria through US bank accounts in a scheme involving "false documents" based on the purchase of airplanes.

Onyema was indicted alongside Ejiroghene Eghagha, the airline's chief of administration and finance, who is said to have committed aggravated identity theft in connection with the scheme.

Subsequently, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) reportedly seized Onyema's passport to temporarily restrict his movement.

But the South-East Governors' Forum in a statement, said there was no strong indication that Onyema committed any crime, adding that businesses were meant to have one issue or the other to settle.

They also called for the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari and the US Ambassador to Nigeria.

"The insinuation that some Nigerians or some government officials are against Onyema and would want to pull him down, by all means, is a ploy to instigate hatred against him," the statement read.

"He has remained in the aviation industry which is highly challenging in our country when many people could not cope.

"Onyema is at peace with the federal government and has on various occasions, commended the president for assisting him get up to five international licences. Many officials of Buhari's administration had stood for him many times in promoting and encouraging Air Peace operations in and outside Nigeria.

"Air Peace is a business and most businesses usually have one issue or the other to settle and this one is not an exception. We plead with Buhari to please continue to give Onyema all the necessary support and protection to enable him sort out this matter peacefully.

"The governors of the South-east will do everything within the law to support Onyema overcome this issue so as to continue to offer more excellent services to Nigeria.

"We request the US Ambassador to Nigeria to please step into the matter so as to peacefully resolve the issue without destroying Onyema's reputation. We also urge Onyema to engage experienced and external financial managers to work with the US government in resolving and rectifying his business tax matter if any."

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