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The South-east Governors Forum on Tuesday expressed support for the Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, over the money laundering allegation against him by the United States Department of Justice.
Mr Onyema is accused of laundering over $20 million from Nigeria through United States bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents for the purchase of aircraft. American authorities indicted Mr Onyema and have filed charges against him in court.
The five governors in the South-east, in a statement, said the insinuation that some Nigerians or government officials were against Mr Onyema ”to pull him down” was false.
The governors said there was nothing ‘exceptional’ about Mr Onyema’s ordeal, arguing that just like most businesses, ”it was bound to have one issue or the other to settle”.
The governors said the Air Peace boss ”was at peace with the Federal Government and had in several fora commended President Muhammadu Buhari for assisting him to get up to five international licences”.
They urged President Buhari ”to support and protect Mr Onyema to enable him to sort out the matter peacefully so that his business will not suffer.”
They further appealed to the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria to intervene in the matter.
“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,” they said. ”He has remained in the aviation industry which is highly challenging in our country when many people could not cope.”
The governors also said: “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 said they stand solidly behind Mr Onyema.
“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,” they said.