15TH ANNIVERSARY OVERLAND REDEFINES EXCELLENCE IN REGIONAL AIR TRANSPORT

Capt. Edward Boyo is the Chief Executive Officer of Overland Airways. He is a globally renowned expert in aviation and air transport development. Together with his team of professionals, he has diligently managed Overland Airways, Nigeria's most consistent, longest-serving airline that has provided uninterrupted flight services over the past 15 years in Nigeria. As Overland Airways marks its 15 years Anniversary, Capt. Boyo here reiterates the commitment of the Airline to serve the economy in Nigeria and the West Africa Region. He offers insightful advice on improving the economy and aviation industry in Nigerian and the region.

Q: Overland Airways is marking its 15 years of flight services, and is today the most consistent longest-serving airline in Nigeria. As the Chief Executive Officer of the airline, how would you describe the journey so far?

A: Overland Airways has served the economy diligently for the past 15 years and we are thankful to God Almighty for that. Just like any other business, the journey of Overland Airways is replete with exciting and challenging moments. When we started out our journey as an airline, we had the singular vision and objective to be successful in serving the economy by moving people from one location to another in safety and comfort and in a professional manner that adds value to their businesses and living. We anticipated there would be challenges, and we as much as possible try to be realistic when addressing these challenges.

In other words, our journey is a journey driven by commitment to service. The Nigerian economy is faced with many challenges, and every Nigerian is expected to come out with solutions at various levels and competencies. Our niche is in providing Nigeria with air interconnectivity, connecting people and places to create business and pleasure; and we serve with all our heart in that regard. That is our journey as Overland Airways.

We pioneered flight services to Ibadan, Ilorin, Akure, Dutse, Jalingo, Asaba, Kaduna, Abuja, among others, in Nigeria to assist investors, students, government officials, holidaymakers and others get easier and safer means of movement to and from these remote economies. This has paid dividends to these economies and that is the essence of our journey as an airline. In the process, we have stepped up our core competences and capabilities over these years. For instance, Overland Airways has undergone the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) and is listed on the IOSA Registry. Overland is also a proud Member of IATA, a community of respectable Airlines dictating global best practices and standard in the world today. These are world-class achievements and Overland Airways today sits among the world's leading airlines in terms of operational safety standards and overall quality.

Some critics describe us as slow to grow, but it would have been a disservice if we ventured into service with the wrong tools and capabilities. Therefore, part of our commitment is to serve the right way, bringing our global experiences into delivering the excellent services that Overland Airways provides today.

Make no mistakes about it; setting up an airline is easier to achieve than running the airline sustainably which is a complex and challenging task. Our ability to run Overland Airways successfully and sustainably over these past 15 years is a feat that has preserved and set Overland Airways apart today as an industry leader setting standard of top-quality airline management in Nigeria and the West Africa region. As long as mankind exists, the journey of an airline continues. So, I can say that even at 15 years, the journey of Overland Airways has just begun.

Q: You are about the only airline Chief Executive Officer in Nigeria that is also a Pilot actively flying your passengers regularly. What has been your key motivation and driving force?

A: Well, I will say that I am actuated by the need to serve. I believe the resources should not be wasted but brought to bear on driving our corporate economic goals. Again, flying is a vocation which I see as a service. I also believe no one is too big to serve wherever one finds oneself. When we set the right direction through our own activities as leaders, it becomes easier to bring the next generation into line, as example is a good way to express leadership.

At Overland Airways we have six core values, namely professionalism, excellence, safety, accountability, working hard and integrity. When you look at these, there is no provision for laxity; and to provide leadership under these concepts should come with a good measure of appropriate examples. To me I see it as leading from the front rather than from the sidelines or back.

Finally, I enjoy it and I am not about to leave it; my passengers too enjoy it and they are not about to give it up. It's a unique selling proposition of Overland Airways and a win-win for all sides. It is an important part of the sweet service experience we deliver to our passengers.

Q: Overland Airways is widely known as an economic development partner opening up hinterland routes in Nigeria. What is the motivation for the airline in this regard?

A: Hinterland routes or secondary airports in remote economies are all a key part of the national economy that should be adequately developed to ensure fair distribution and transformation of national wealth. Providing easy access enables hinterland economies develop faster and benefit from various economic development schemes. Overland Airways fills the gap in economic development by interconnecting hinterland economies, and also linking them to hub economies. That is why we have dedicated flights to places like Ibadan, Akure, Ilorin, Asaba, Dutse, Jalingo, etc.

Even though there is an increasing rate of rural-urban migration, the rural and semi-urban areas still hold a greater portion of Nigeria's over 180 million population and abundant workforce, as well as untapped natural resources such as arable land, mineral resources, etc. These resources are of no benefit if they are not exploited and transformed to add value to the people's lives. Some of these remote economies produce some of the best solid minerals and agricultural products in the world today.

Overland Airways ensures that investors, agribusiness owners, researchers, students, agencies, and community dwellers have easy air access to these locations which are usually considered inaccessible or difficult to access by road for accelerated development. Sustaining world-class airline services to these hinterland routes comes with courage and determination and a high level of airline professionalism. And they love us because we bring airline services to their doorsteps. What more can they ask for, as we are always willing to do more to create greater value for them, which is the reason why Overland Airways is in existence.

Q: As an entrepreneur, what do you think is the way out of the economic malaise facing Nigeria and some other African economies, and what is needed to support genuine enterprise and businesses in the region?

A: It takes commitment and doing the right thing to reposition any economy. Effective fiscal and economic plans must be implemented and enough attention given to the operating environment to ensure that the real sector survives and flourishes. Genuine businesses must be encouraged and supported to excel. In all these countries facing economic challenges, people must consistently do the right things over a long period of time till it becomes a habit; then the economic illness will disappear.

There are vast quantities of natural, intellectual and economic resources in these economies. We only need to prioritize and re-engage these resources as a nation or as a region. We must work at all levels, and collective efforts will improve these economies overtime.

Q: Many Nigerian air travellers would love to see Overland Airways in different parts of the country. What is your thought on this?

A: Overland takes measured steps to establish and consolidate on its operating routes, with plans to expand the network in due course, as part of our commitment to the economy. What is very key is to ensure the provision of high quality and sustainable services that will meet the deeds of the market. It is evolutionary and we are working on it with commitment and professionalism. Overland Airways will touch every heart in Nigeria with top quality Airline service.

Q: Overland Airways had previously hinted of plans to venture into West African markets. Where are you now on this?

A: Let me start by saying that Overland Airways is proud to be a Member Airline of IATA. This international seal of world-class airline standard complements Overland Airways' characteristic high quality service. The same commitment we have to help transform hinterland economies in Nigeria is what we are taking to the regional arena to integrate the regional economies in West Africa. Nigeria is our home and Africa is our world. At 15 years we are old enough to venture. Our studies and practical demonstration at home matches tell us we shall overcome the challenges of the away matches and we are set to go.

In fact, Overland Airways has been operating excellent charter services in the region over these past 15 years; but we will extend our schedule services to the region to play our part in the economic integration of West Africa. This is in line with the ICAO concept of 'No Country Left Behind', and also reflects our passion to drive the realization of the African Union's Agenda 2063 objective to transform Africa's economy. We must begin to emphasise on professionalism and world-class standard in providing solution to challenges confronting us as a region. It is necessary that Africans add value and not only wait for solutions from Europe as if we are helpless.

Q: If you were to advise governments on improving the airlines industry in Nigeria and the Africa region, what would your main advice be?

A: Many factors are involved in the success or otherwise of airlines. What we must bear in mind, however, is the need to improve the operating environment to enable airlines as legitimate businesses get high priority they deserve. Difficult operating environments cut down large and small airlines alike as you have seen in recent times.

Airlines are a catalyst for economic development and social integration. They do not necessarily need government bailouts, but they necessarily need a conducive operating environment devoid of unnecessary taxes, charges and fees, and devoid of poor infrastructure, etc. That is what is crucially needed in most of Africa's economies. It is not a business Governments can operate because Governments naturally destabilize the open markets and derail fair competition. Rather, it is a business that Governments can regulate equitably, and this should be their focus.

Q: What is your most outstanding moment as an airline entrepreneur and what is your lowest moment, and had you at any time considered to quit?

A: The highest moment was when, at the Headquarters of the US Exim Bank, we got financing approval to start the airline during the Africa Growth & Opportunity Programme. This was so high, because we had previous disappointments with start-up capital from the local financial industry who considered the Airline business too risky. From then, high moments come every time we satisfy the need to move people in safety and comfort to their destination, and, thereby connecting them to their dreams. It's the fulfillment of the vision of Overland Airways to serve the economies diligently and see them transform to much better entities. As for quitting, I have never considered quitting. No, no. It is losers that quit. Winners persevere. As long as your vision is alive, you only adjust continually and improve. You only quit standards and practices you have gone beyond.

Q: Many African youths look up to you to emulate your outstanding success as an Aviator and first-rate entrepreneur. What is your word to these youths searching for economic freedom?

A: Let me specify that there is no short route to success in any human endeavour. The youths must find and treasure the dignity of labour. They must seek relevance that comes from working hard in whatever discipline they choose.  They must chase a good name through excellence in the chosen field and pursue it relentlessly. Soon enough, the money will start chasing you faster than you can spend. The monetary reward comes after you have worked diligently and added value to people's lives.

Every profession that adds value to people's lives is important and a source of economic freedom. You only need to identify where you can excel and diligently give it your best. Do not copy others that excel in areas that you do not fit in; you only emulate their dignity and diligence and apply these to your area of strength and competence. I must add that you need good health to win in every race, and also be humble with your success and fear God.

Q: What do you look to in another 10 to 15 years for Overland Airways?

A: If God grants long life, I will be around for another 15 years, even though most of it in retirement. The vision of Overland Airways and commitment to economic development remains firmly the same, and can only be strengthened as the years go by. What will expand is the scale of operation in the evolution of the airline. We will continue to embrace technology and improve investment in our human capital and operating Assets, in order to increase the value we create for the customer. This means that we will expand our routes sustainably within Nigerian and the West Africa region, and also partner with Airline entities from other regions within and outside Africa to complement our route expansion efforts. We will also expand our fleet with more aircraft to serve our customers better. Overland Airways will become a household name on every lip in Africa, outlive many generations to exist ad infinitum and will become the foremost economic development partner on the continent. That's the dream.

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