How Allen Ifechukwu Onyema Went from Squatting in Oshodi to Building a Billion-Dollar Business Empire

Allen Ifechukwu Onyema, the Chairman of Air Peace Airlines, had an interesting and disciplined upbringing. He was born in March 1964 in Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria, as the eldest of nine siblings to Michael and Helen Onyema. His family’s roots are in Mbosi, located in the Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State, within the South East region of Nigeria.

Onyema’s education journey was all about aiming for the best. He finished his early schooling in Benin and then went to Government College in Ughelli, Delta State. He did so well that he went straight to the University of Ibadan to study law after getting his Higher School Certificate in 1984. He became a lawyer in 1989.

As Allen got older, he had big dreams. Even though his family wanted him to work in the Nigerian oil and gas industry, Allen wanted something different. So, in 1990, he left his hometown of Warri and moved to Lagos to follow his dreams.

When Allen arrived in Lagos, he didn’t have a lot of money. But he was determined to get a job at a law firm. He started out in a simple way, staying with a friend in Oshodi and taking the crowded train to Lagos Island due to financial constraints. Despite facing these challenges, he never lost sight of his dream of becoming a well-known lawyer.

He worked really hard to make his dream come true. For two months, the young lawyer searched all over Lagos for a job until he finally found one with Chief Vincent Amobi Nwizugbo. Chief Nwizugbo gave him the chance to work at his law firm, Nwizugbo & Company, on Martins Street, Lagos Island. He was paid a monthly salary of NGN 500.00.

It was during this time that Onyema faced a pivotal moment in his career. He took on a challenging case against formidable opponents, including a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and three other prominent lawyers. Despite being advised by his own firm to drop the case, Onyema persisted and emerged victorious, marking a turning point in his professional trajectory.

After his legal career took off, Allen decided to try other things too. He got involved in real estate, import trade, and even started his own law firm called ONYEMA & CO. People knew him for doing great work and being honest.

Allen Ifechukwu Onyema Entrepreneur Journey

Allen Ifechukwu Onyema’s journey as an entrepreneur shows how determined he was to create opportunities and make a difference in Nigeria’s business world.

It all started when he stumbled upon a chance to do real estate deals in Alagbado, Lagos, while still working as a lawyer.

While living in Oshodi and dealing with city life challenges, Onyema saw a chance to help people buy land in Alagbado. Eventually, he got 400 plots of land to sell for the owners. He made a smart deal that let him sell the plots for more money, doubling the initial price and keeping the profits.

This success in real estate led him to start Allen Onyema & Company to handle more real estate projects. He also started his law firm, Onyema & Co., and another company called Continental Business Links Ltd., which imported goods.

Onyema kept growing his businesses by working hard and spotting good opportunities. He used his connections and business skills to help Nigerian traders buy goods from foreign manufacturers, which turned into profitable deals.

But what really made Onyema stand out was when he decided to start an airline. In 2013, he founded Air Peace because he wanted to create jobs and help Nigeria’s economy grow. Even though he faced many challenges, like dealing with regulatory hurdles and delays, Onyema didn’t give up on his dream of having a successful Nigerian airline.

Air Peace became a big deal, becoming one of the largest airlines in West and Central Africa. Onyema’s bold move to buy modern planes like the Embraer 195-E2 and Boeings planes showed his commitment to making Air Peace great. Getting these top-notch planes didn’t just make Air Peace popular, it also showed Onyema’s dedication to creating jobs and boosting Nigeria’s economy.

Today, Air Peace is a symbol of Onyema’s entrepreneurial drive and determination. With more planes and flights, the airline keeps growing under his leadership.

Onyema’s journey from humble beginnings to a big business leader inspires other people who want to start their own businesses. It proves that with hard work, vision, and a commitment to excellence, anyone can achieve big things.

Allen Ifechukwu Onyema Philanthropy Activities

Allen Ifechukwu Onyema’s philanthropic activities are deeply rooted in his commitment to fostering peace, unity, and national development in Nigeria.

From his early days as a student leader promoting ethnic harmony to his current endeavors as a prominent entrepreneur, Onyema has consistently demonstrated a dedication to uplifting communities and addressing societal challenges.

One of Onyema’s notable philanthropic initiatives is the establishment of the Foundation For Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria (FEHN), which he founded to promote peace and harmony among Nigeria’s diverse ethnic groups.

Through FEHN, Onyema has been actively involved in peace-building efforts across the country, including initiatives aimed at resolving conflicts and promoting dialogue among different ethnic communities.

During the height of the Niger Delta militancy in the late 2000s, Onyema played a pivotal role in facilitating the amnesty process for militants, working closely with the government to ensure a peaceful resolution to the crisis. His efforts not only helped to bring an end to the violence in the region but also contributed to the reintegration and rehabilitation of former militants into society.

In times of crisis, Onyema has also demonstrated his commitment to helping Nigerians in need. In September 2019, amidst xenophobic attacks targeting Nigerians in South Africa, Onyema spearheaded the evacuation of hundreds of Nigerians from the country, providing them with safe passage back home. His swift and decisive action in coordinating the evacuation efforts earned him widespread praise and recognition for his humanitarian efforts.

In 2023, there was a sudden war in Sudan, leading to the evacuation of Nigerians from the country. Air Peace used one of its large Boeing 777 aircraft, with the registration number 5N-BVE, for the evacuation flight. The flight landed at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja around 11:00 PM on Wednesday, May 4, 2023.

Furthermore, Onyema has shown a deep appreciation for the contributions of Nigerian athletes and sports heroes, honoring them for their achievements and sacrifices.

Through initiatives such as providing free air tickets to sports heroes and commemorating past victories, Onyema has sought to celebrate the achievements of individuals who have made significant contributions to the nation’s sporting legacy.

Beyond his philanthropic activities, Onyema’s commitment to peace and nonviolence has earned him recognition both locally and internationally.

He has been honored with prestigious awards such as the Martin Luther King Global Award for Pioneering Nonviolence Education in West Africa and the Hope for Humanity Award from the Rotary Club, highlighting his tireless efforts in promoting peace and social change.

Through his philanthropy and advocacy work, Allen Ifechukwu Onyema continues to be a beacon of hope and inspiration, demonstrating the transformative power of compassion, empathy, and collective action in building a better future for Nigeria and its people.

Allen Ifechukwu Onyema’s journey from his early life to entrepreneurship, marked by a net worth of $3 billion, serves as an inspiring example for emerging business leaders. Highlighting the transformative power of perseverance, innovation, and a steadfast commitment to creating positive change in society.

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