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Exclusives

Allen Onyema: From a lawyer to founder of Nigeria’s leading airline

Nairametrics’ profile focuses on a man who has risen from a humble beginning to become a top player in the Nigerian Aviation industry.

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Onyema alleged fraud: US court issues warrant of arrest

If you think of a Nigerian of Igbo extraction with the typical zero-to-hero story and no history of politics attached, the name of Air Peace boss, Allen Onyema would come top on the list with the likes of Innocent Chukwuma of Innoson Motors.

For many, Onyema came to the fore in 2019 after he offered the use of his Boeing 777 aircraft free of charge to evacuate Nigerians from South Africa during the Xenophobic attacks. It was a rare act that highlighted not only his patriotism but his humanity, especially considering that over N280 million was set aside for this purpose.

This week’s profile focuses on how Onyema went from his days of jumping buses and trains in search of a job in 1990, to becoming a top employer of labour in Nigeria.

READ: Air Peace to evacuate stranded Indians from Lagos to Kerala

Birth and education

Though a native of Mbosi town in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra state, Allen Ifechukwu Onyema, was the first of nine children born to his parents in 1964, in Benin City (now Edo state). He had his early education in several parts of Midwestern Nigeria including St. Anthony’s Secondary School, Azia; Urhobo College, Effurun; and Government College, Ughelli (all in current day Delta state) where he obtained his Higher School Certificate in 1984.

In the same year, he gained admission to read law at the University of Ibadan. He combined academic works with social activism to engender national peace. Onyema graduated in 1987 and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1989.

With no naira to his name, he moved to Lagos in search of greener pastures and a better life. Onyema once recalled that he had to squat with a friend at Oshodi, and trek from Marina to Iddo to join the overcrowded trains back from his daily trips to Lagos Island in search of a chamber to practice his law profession.

He secured a chance with Nwizugbo & Co. Chambers and paved his way in by winning a case that had been labelled ‘a bad case’ in 1990. Within the next two years, he rose to become the Head of Chambers, but had to resign in 1992 to avoid a clash of interest with his real estate deals.

READ: Air Peace ramps up fleet size with Boeing deal

Discovering Allen the entrepreneur

As part of his ways to make ends meet, Onyema earned some commissions from referring and connecting some buyers to get land in Alagbado, and this gradually ushered him into the world of business. In an interview with Late Ubong King on Thinkation, he recounted the story;

“When I was squatting in Oshodi, I had these garage boys that were my friends and one happened to belong to a family that had this large expanse of land in Alagbado. He took me there, showed me their properties and I helped them to bring some buyers. A week later, after I got the employment, the entire family sent for me, and gave me about 400 plots of land in Alagbado to sell on their behalf at N5000 per plot.”

As against the previous arrangement, there would be no commission but Onyema was at liberty to sell the plots at whatever price he desired and keep the extra. He had some survey and valuations done, and decided to sell the plots at N10,000 each, giving him 100% profit. For someone on a monthly salary of N500, every plot of land sold would fetch him his 10-months’ salary. It was easy for Onyema to recognise this opportunity as his ticket to riches.

READ: FG moves to curb leasing challenge faced by airlines 

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He sold the first 6 plots, ran series of adverts on National Concord Newspaper after which the sales went wild. He took a friend’s advice and bought over 87 plots for himself which he sold for more than N30,000 per plot, years later when the value had appreciated. He also bought other plots of land at Lekki axis, as he progressed.

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From squatting in Oshodi, Onyema moved to Airport Hotel Ikeja with the intention of staying for a couple of weeks till he got a suitable house, but ended up staying for two years before he moved out. It was one of those acts he described as “stupidity” resulting from youthful exuberance.

The real estate business progressed so fast that he then decided to float Allen Onyema & Company to handle his real estate concerns. When he resigned from the chambers in 1992, he also went ahead to float Onyema & Co. to continue his law practice. “I was making a lot of money but I was also working really hard,” he said.

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READ: Local Airlines tell staff to forget April salary

Import and Trades

Another business which Onyema floated at the same time was the Continental Business Links Limited, an import trade outfit. He recalls that he set up the business to play the middleman role between traders in Nigeria who wished to import goods, and foreign manufacturers looking to get their goods into the Nigerian market.

He started with a trade exhibition where the Korean manufacturers met with local traders and established business connections. With both parties paying commissions to Continental Business Links for their trades and transactions, it did not take long to get the business off the ground.

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Later again, he started Every Tide limited, an imports and trade business that imported electronics and sold in wholesale containers to traders. Since many traders were eager to avoid the hassles and risks of importing themselves, Onyema had a ready market waiting to lunge at his goods.

READ: Air Peace’s Onyema saga: EFCC seizes passport, as Northern Youths plan rally at US embassy

Starting Air Peace

For Onyema, starting an indigenous airline was not about making profit, but about creating jobs. A friend told him that one commercial Boeing 737 could give jobs to a thousand persons and he decided that commercial aviation was a much nobler venture than leaving his money to seat idle in the banks.

As he noted in an interview, “If it was about profit, I would have kept the money in the banks and be getting double digit interests on my investments. My businesses were making millions but they were not creating the kind of jobs I wanted them to create. There were people I gave money to start some business but they come back some months later with stories, so somebody suggested aviation to me.”

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He first purchased three Domier jets in 2013, before realising that they could only be used for charters and even though they could fetch him a lot of money, only a few staff were needed.

“I had to go back to get Boeing 737 for commercial aviation, and that was how I started with 7 planes, the first time ever that a Nigerian airline would be starting with more than 2 airplanes.”

Despite a two-year delay resulting from the absence of an operating license, Air Peace has grown to become the largest indigenous airline in whole of West and Central Africa with competitive fares on both passenger and charter services.

READ: Air Peace to recall some sacked pilots after Minister’s intervention

Other activities

Onyema’s choice of the name ‘Air Peace’ stemmed from his interest in peace-engendering activities even back in his university days; and so it naturally adds up that most of his non-business activities are directly connected with this interest.

He initiated, organised and held the “1st Nigeria forever project” in 2005 – a project geared towards the promotion of broad nationalism as against ethnic nationalism.

In April 2007, Allen Onyema became the second African ever to be appointed to the Executive Board of The Global Nonviolence Conference Series Inc. USA, alongside notable world leaders like Hon. Dr. Andrew Young and Suarez Ramos. As a member of this board, he won for Nigeria, the hosting rights for Global Conference on Nonviolence and Peace in Abuja from December 3-5, 2007.

READ: NADDC moves to unveil Nigeria’s first electric vehicle

Ruth Okwumbu has a MSc. and BSc. in Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and Delta state university respectively. Prior to her role as analyst at Nairametrics, she had a progressive six year writing career.As a Business Analyst with Narametrics, she focuses on profiles of top business executives, founders, startups and the drama surrounding their successes and challenges. You may contact her via [email protected]

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Exclusives

Best performing Mutual Funds in January 2021

According to data from the SEC, 49.2% of the 118 registered funds recorded positive growth in January 2021

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Best Mutual Funds in Nigeria

Mutual funds are one of the fastest-growing asset classes in Nigeria, as data from the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), shows that 49.2% of the 118 registered funds recorded positive growth in January 2021.

A mutual fund is a type of financial vehicle made up of a pool of money collected from various investors, with the aim of investing them in securities like stocks, bonds, money market instruments, and other assets.

According to SEC, a total of 118 mutual funds were registered as of January 29, 2021, with a net asset value of N1.57 trillion across several fund types.

Nairametrics tracked the performance of these mutual funds by comparing the fund prices as of 31st December, 2020 with the fund prices as of the last trading day of January 2021.

Below were the top-performing mutual funds in the month of January 2021. We also highlighted their performance in terms of changes in net asset value and included profiles of the funds as described on their websites.

READ: Investors pump N7 billions into New Gold ETF


Lotus Capital Halal ETF – Lotus Capital Limited (Exchange Traded Fund)

The Lotus Halal Equity Exchange Traded Fund “LHE ETF” is an open-ended fund that tracks the performance of the NSE-Lotus Islamic Index (NSELII). It is designed to enable investors obtain market exposure to the securities of the constituent companies of the NSE-Lotus Islamic Index and to replicate the price and yield performance of the index.

December 31st, 2020

Fund Price – N12.73

January 29th, 2021

Fund Price – N13.66

Return – 7.31%

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Ranking – Fifth

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Commentary: This is an Exchange Traded Fund by Lotus Capital Limited, which grew by 7.31% in the month of January. The fund also grew significantly by 51.7% in the year 2020, indicating that the fund is a delight to its investors. Also, the net asset value stood at N655.04 million as of 29th January, 2021, indicating 6.76% growth compared to N613.59 million recorded as of 31st December, 2020.

READ: Understanding how Mutual Funds and ETFs work in Nigeria

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Stanbic IBTC Aggressive Fund – Stanbic IBTC Asset Mgt. Limited (Equity Based Funds)

The Stanbic IBTC Aggressive Fund (SIAF), which was launched in June 2012, is an open-ended fund that invests a minimum of 60% of its portfolio in equities of companies listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) and a maximum of 40% in fixed income securities. Notably, the expense ratio for the fund is 1.5%.

December 31st, 2020

Fund Price – N2,525.55

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January 29th, 2021

Fund Price – N2,713.93

Return – 7.46%

Ranking – Fourth

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Commentary: Stanbic IBTC Aggressive Fund is the second-best performing Equity-Based fund in the month of January, growing by 7.46% to stand at N2,713.93 as of 29th of January, 2021. The net asset value also grew by 7.43% to close at N340.8 million.

READ: DV Balanced Fund to become a Money Market Fund


FSDH Dollar Fund – FSDH Asset Management Ltd. (Fixed Income Funds)

This is an open-ended mutual fund that invests in US Dollar denominated Fixed Income Securities issued by Nigerian Sovereign and Corporate Entities. The objective of the fund is to provide customers with the opportunity to invest in dollar-denominated instruments. Meanwhile, the minimum amount required to invest in the fund is $1,000.

December 31st, 2020

Fund Price – N415.1

January 29th, 2021

Fund Price – N447.7

Return – 7.85%

Ranking – Third

Commentary: The fixed income fund managed by FSDH Asset Management, recorded growth of 7.85% in January from N415.1 recorded as of the end of 2020 to stand at N447.7 at the end of January. The net asset value grew by 18.41% to close at N1.002 billion.


Paramount Equity Fund – Chapel Hill Denham Mgt. Limited (Equity-based Fund)

Paramount Equity Fund is Nigeria’s oldest mutual fund, which invests in a broad range of high-quality equities and fixed income securities. The fund aims to provide an investment vehicle that will enable unit holders to achieve consistent capital appreciation over a medium-to-long term.

December 31st, 2020

Fund Price – N16.27

January 29th, 2021

Fund Price – N17.56

Return – 7.93%

Ranking – Second

Commentary: This is an Equity Based Fund managed by Chapel Hill Denham Management, which grew by 7.93% in the month of January 2021 to stand at N17.56 as of 29th of January 2021, while the net asset value grew by 8.22% to stand at N598.19 million.


Vantage Dollar Fund – Investment One Funds Management (Fixed Income Fund)

Vantage Dollar Fund is an open-ended Unit Trust Scheme by Investment One Funds. The Fund seeks to provide investors with a bias for Dollar denominated securities an access to such securities, which ordinarily would be inaccessible to them by virtue of the minimum amount typically required to make such investments.

December 31st, 2020

Fund Price – N559.87

January 29th, 2021

Fund Price – N502.9

Return – 11.33%

Ranking – First

Commentary: This is the best performing mutual fund in the month of January 2021 and the only fund with a double-figure yield in the month under review. Vantage Dollar Fund grew by 11.33% to stand at N502.9 as of 29th of January 2021 while the net asset value also grew by 10.93%. This is quite an impressive performance as the fund primarily invests in Corporate and Sovereign Eurobonds.


 

Bubbling under……

The following funds make up the rest of the top 10 our list in ascending order:

AXA Mansard Equity Income Fund – AXA Mansard Investments Limited (Equity Based Fund)

Return – 6.69%

VETBANK ETF – Vetiva Fund Managers Limited (Exchange Traded Fund)

Return – 6.82%

PACAM Equity Fund – PAC Asset Management Limited (Equity Based Fund)

Return – 6.86%

Legacy Equity Fund – First City Asset Management (Equity Based Fund)

Return – 7.14%

VCG ETF – Vetiva Fund Managers Limited (Exchange Traded Fund)

Return – 7.16%

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Energy

Petrol now sells for N173/litre, as filling stations hoard products

Most of the stations visited now sell between N167/litre and N170/litre.

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Many filling stations across Lagos and Ogun States have increased the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly called Petrol, from N161/litre to N173/litre.

Though the Federal Government has not officially increased the pump price, some marketers have increased the price while others decided to hoard the commodity, waiting for an official hike announcement.

This was disclosed in an investigation by Nairametrics. We found that most of the stations visited now sell between N167/litre and N170/litre.

While stations like Jof Petroleum, sell at N173/litre, NNPC (both in Magboro) sell at N167/litre and others like Conoil, Capital Oil, Lagos (all along Lagos-Ibadan expressway) have also increased their prices too.

READ: Ban on fuel distribution to border filling station begins to affect network providers 

One of the attendants, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that the management of the station instructed them to adjust the meter, as the government is expected to increase the pump price soon.

She said, “We have been selling from two out of our five dispensers and that is not because we don’t have the product but because we don’t want to run out when the price is increased later.”

The manager of NNPC, which sells at N167/litre, said, “It is difficult for marketers to profitably sell at the approved pump price. We have been running at a loss before now, so it is important for us to make money as the cost of petrol would definitely increase soon.”

READ: DPR warns against hoarding of petroleum products by depot owners, threatens sanctions

It is difficult for us to make profit – Marketers

In a statement issued by the National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chinedu Ukadike, he said, “We met as regards the emerging trend in the downstream supply of petroleum products. We had a Central Working Committee meeting last Wednesday where stakeholders looked at the trends.

“We were able to look at some of the policies and the introduction of e-payments by PPMC and the challenges therein, as well as the issue of buying products from other private depots and the profiteering in that section.”

According to him, it is not possible to sell at the government approved pump price of N162 to N165/litre at filling stations, because it will be difficult for marketers to make any amount of profit selling at such price.

READ: Oil marketers advise government on how to curb smuggling of petroleum products

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What you should know

  • On the other hand, NNPC has insisted that there won’t be any increase in February, adding that the development is due to the rise in the price of crude oil in the international market.
  • According to NNPC, the decision was to allow ongoing engagements with organised labour and other stakeholders to be concluded as regards an acceptable framework that would not expose Nigerians to hardship.

Though the NNPC claims not to have increased ex-depot price, private depot owners have raised their prices.

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Also, while it is only some stations that have increased their prices, it is expected that the cost of the commodity will definitely rise in other outlets in a few days.

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