U.S. Indictment Of Allen Onyema And His Multi-billion Dollar Niger Delta Fund Complicity – The True Story

By Ikenga Chronicles November 28, 2019

U.S. Indictment Of Allen Onyema And His Multi-billion Dollar Niger Delta Fund Complicity – The True Story

When the news broke out recently that the United States government had indicted, the CEO and Chairman of Air Peace, Mr. Onyema of bank fraud and money laundering to the tune of several billions of Naira. There were expectedly mixed reactions, especially from the Nigerian front, where the aviation czar and business mogul recently won the hearts of many with his generous free lifting of Nigerians from South Africa who were caught in the web of senseless xenophobic attacks.

There were mixed reactions on the other hand. Many people have a lot of respect and regards for the US judicial and investigative agencies that have shown high levels of prudential diligence in doing their work, and so would not take their pronouncement on such an issue lightly. On the other hand, people have the tendency to believe that “successful businessmen” such as Onyema are “too legit” to be reduced to such debased status of common criminals.

Little did Nigerians know that this was going to open a can of worms that have festered over the years with the collaborative efforts or deliberate indifference of previous Nigerian president.

The revelations that are coming to limelight now call to question the true ownership of the airline itself and the credibility of the business mogul as well as certain federal government interventions in the Niger Delta region during the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.

The crux of the matter is that US Attorney’s Office and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division has charged Allen Onyema with twenty-seven counts of bank fraud and money laundering. According to US officials and federal court documents, he allegedly moved more than $20 million from foreign sources through American bank accounts and using it partly to pay for living expenses, luxury cars and high-end shopping.

Onyema allegedly used falsified documents to support his applications to obtain millions of dollars in foreign exchange via Letters of Credit transactions. The key thing here is the use of falsified documents to obtain millions of dollars in foreign exchange from the CBN at a very favorable exchange rate for the purpose of purchasing aircrafts.

The letters of credits were used to obtain and transfer more than $20 million dollars into Atlanta based bank accounts controlled by Onyema. Meanwhile, the letters of credit transactions were strictly for the benefit of Onyema and not any third-party business enterprise.

Springfield Aviation Company LLC registered in Georgia is owned by Onyema. The purported company called Springfield Aviation that Onyema purportedly claimed to purchase the aircrafts from is owned and controlled by him. He controlled both the source and destination of the funds, but such were hidden under false pretext as if he was doing business with a third party.

In addition, Springfield Aviation never owned the aircrafts Onyema was reportedly buying with these letters of credit from Springfield. Moreover, tax and regulatory papers filed would have disclosed that Springfield Aviation does not have such assets to sell. If they did sell them the IRS would have been aware of such transactions as profit from the transactions would be reported on its tax returns. Obviously, it seemed that this was not the case.

So far, attorneys to Mr Onyema have come out denying these allegations on several grounds that are left to be understood by legal luminaries.

According to Onyema, “I am innocent of all charges and the US government will find no dirt on me because I have never conducted business with any illegalities.”

“Be rest assured that I also have my lawyers on this. These mere allegations will be refuted, as I have never laundered money in my life, neither have I committed bank fraud anywhere in the world. Every Kobo (of Nigerian currency) I transferred to the US for aircraft purchase went through the Central Bank of Nigeria LC regime and all were used for the same purpose.”

What is interesting to most Nigerians, however, is the antecedents of the business tycoon and his alleged involvement in financial transactions with questionable linings back in the Niger Delta under the watch of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.

In 2014, Diepreye Dikibo, spokesman of the ex-Militant Leaders Forum in the Niger Delta, alleged that Onyema and Kingsley Kuku, (former adviser to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan on Niger Delta Affairs), used funds meant for the amnesty programme to float Air Peace.

Kuku was the coordinator of the amnesty project while Onyema was a consultant and some of his companies were huge beneficiaries of the project.

In a statement, Dikibo alleged that Onyema’s Foundation for Ethnic Harmony was one of the biggest beneficiaries of contracts from presidential amnesty programme.

Allen Onyema’s business outfit handled the demobilization and orientation of former Niger Delta militants which cost billions of Naira to run. Allen Onyema has also been responsible for high valued training contracts (running into billions) in the areas of welding training as well as aviation training for the Presidential Amnesty Programme in countries such as South Africa, The United States and Dubai.

Two of Allen Onyema’s NGOs which also double as business outfits are known to be the biggest beneficiary of large value Presidential Amnesty Contracts. They include the Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria (FEHN) and the International Center for Non-violence & Peace Development (ICNPD).

All the contracts awarded to Allen Onyema and his business run into millions of dollars and were all grossly inflated and over valued in a manner designed to short change the Amnesty Programme and steal the billions of naira yearly allocated to the manage the amnesty program in the Niger Delta.

However, some persons believe that the travails of the businessman are a direct consequence of his decision to cancel a major business deal he had with interests in the United States.

According to the leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) Uchenna Madu, the travail of the Air Peace boss began when he cancelled the purchase of America’s 10 Boeing 737 max airplanes after the last Ethiopian Airline crash that killed all passengers on board and opted for Brazil’s Embraer instead.

Madu believes that “such positive and eloquent step by Air Peace triggered USA’s anger against Air Peace Airline because of the $1.17 billion loss of income to Brazil.

Madu further claimed that Federal Government’s swift response that Chief Onyema should face the criminal charges against him in the US is another proof of evidence that President Mohammed Buhari-led Federal Government is bent on destroying industrious and enterprising Ndigbo.

The MASSOB leader believed that the plan probe by EFCC has proven that the Federal Government is not happy with Onyema for his philanthropic gestures to the people of Nigeria, especially Igbo when he evacuated them freely from South Africa’s xenophobic attack.

He also accused America of blackmailing the Air Peace boss in order to destroy his global philanthropic affluence.

“The US has been doing business in the past with Chief Allen Onyema. If Air Peace boss had not cancelled the $1.17bn contract to America’s Boeing Manufacturers, would they have suddenly woken up from their deep sleep to discover that Allen is a scammer? MASSOB and other pro-Biafra organizations will continuously protect, defend and uphold the interest, dignity and integrity of Ndigbo,” Madu vowed.

However, the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta has said that the indictment of the Air Peace Boss has vindicated its earlier position that the philanthropist cum businessman was nothing but a fraud all along who was feeding fat on monies meant for people of the Niger Delta, with collaboration from high places in the country.

As it stands, Nigerians will continue to watch as the drama unfolds.