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MTE: Madam Nkechi Onyenso, Chief Executive Officer, Pathfinders Limited, Nigeria.

We continue our Meet The Executive series and today we are delighted to publish excerpts of our recent interview with Madam Nkechi Onyenso, CEO of Pathfinders International, the leading AVSEC provider across West Africa.

da: Firstly, I would like to welcome you Madam Nkechi and congratulate you on continuing to fly the flag for the Nigerian AVSEC segment across West Africa. For our followers, can you please share the Pathfinders International story to date?

MNO: Pathfinders International is the first indigenous aviation security company in Nigeria. Pathfinders was established in the 1980’s and has been providing aviation and related services for over 3 decades in Nigeria and recently in West Africa. Pathfinders was born through the entrepreneurial initiative of its founder Late Sir Sylvanus Onyeukwu Onyenso who worked and retired in British Airways as the first indigenous station manager.

The pioneering work of Pa Onyenso was continued and sustained by his son Obinna Onyeukwu Onyenso who became the MD/CEO of Pathfinders International Limited when his father died.

In the over 15 years of Obinna’s leadership, he grew the Pathfinders brand to an enviable position taking her operations to a number of States in Nigeria and three other West African Countries. He also signed on more contracts to Pathfinders and expanded the scope of her operations.

Over the years, Pathfinders has continued to grow her operations, contribute to the development of the industry and provide employment for hundreds of Africans.

da: How has it been playing in a male dominated field?

MNO: Well, I must confess, it has been quite interesting. I guess God was preparing me for this when he made me the first female Registrar and CEO of another Organization after 50 years of its existence sometime in the mid 2000’s.

Being the only woman MD in a male dominated sector means you will have to work harder and smarter. But permit me to quickly add, that professionalism and integrity has no gender. I personally do not believe that women should be offered the job just because they are women, there are other ways to achieve balance and equality if that is the sole objective; I believe women should be offered the job because we are skilled, trained and provide the right balance to ensure the growth and stability of any organization.

da: Most people see Pathfinders in the airport but do not know exactly what they do for the airlines. Can you enlighten us?

MNO: Pathfinders International Limited has been operating in Nigeria as a fully registered entity that provides a comprehensive service as regards aviation security.

We are contracted to some local, regional and international airlines to provide support services covering areas such as Travel Document Screening, Passenger Profiling and Crowd Control, Baggage Escort and Screening, Aircraft Security and Surveillance, Export/Import Cargo, Mail Escort and Screening, Clearing and Forwarding, Escort Movement, Catering Security, X-Ray Screeners, Security Consulting amongst others.

da: In what airports does Pathfinders currently provide services?

MNO: In over 15 airports in Nigeria and also Ghana. We are licensed to provide services in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

da: Apart from Aviation Security, does Pathfinders offer any other services?

MNO: Pathfinders can also work as a GSA for new airlines looking to start up in any of the countries we currently operate. We are also licensed as a Clearing and Forwarding company. We are also licensed to provide static guard services.

da: Do you see Pathfinders growing operations further across the African continent, say over the medium term?

MNO: Most definitely noting our track record in the industry with emphasis on aviation security. We are already registered in 2 other countries going towards the South of Africa this time. We are working on being operational soon by God’s grace.

da: What do you see as the major challenges to domestic aviation at present?

MNO: Well I do not manage an airline at the moment but from my point of view, there are a cocktail of challenges affecting domestic aviation in general including but not limited to: -

High cost of insurance premiums

The fluctuating cost of aviation fuel which I opine is linked to the exchange rate

Rising inflation, we know that a recent study states that annual inflation rate in Nigeria accelerated for a sixth month to 24.08% in July 2023, the highest since September of 2005, compared to forecasts of 23.7%. This significantly impacts on the purchasing power of passengers to buy tickets which has the concomitant effect on sales and revenue remembering that rates paid to aviation authorities are fixed regardless of the number of passenger carried on the flight

Ever increasing operational costs which makes it difficult for industry players to stay afloat and meet operational needs

da: Do you see the domestic operations growing over the medium term (in terms of flight movements) and how optimistic are you that Nigerian Airlines can compete again successfully in the regional markets and across the continent?

MNO: Oh yes I do. I see a more robust and fast growing domestic operation. Nigerians are very resilient, intelligent and innovative.

Well, Nigerian airlines are already competing. Some airlines have started regional and international flights already.

da: How does Pathfinders stay abreast of aviation threats?

MNO: Now that’s our trade secret oh! (laugh) On a serious note, our motto is – Trusted Service and we have structures in place to ensure that is what we do. The pillar of which is training and retraining and our privilege of having operations in a number of locations which allows us to be a step ahead at all times. Remember, we are – Pathfinders!

da: What advice would you give to someone wishing to pursue a career in the AVSEC industry?

MNO: As a mother, I will give the same advice I give all my biological and adopted children as regards pursuing a career in any industry – If you can dream it, smell it and want it, then plan towards it, work towards it and most certainly go for it. Even if 99% fail, you may be part of the 1% that will succeed in it. The difference is normally the grace of God and your determination to succeed!

It was certainly a pleasure speaking to Madam Nkechi Onyenso, she is clearly a role model female executive in Africa today and runs a very tight ship at Pathfinders International. It also encouraging to see the brand grow across the continent, which goes to show that quality of delivery and service standards should know no boundaries. We are sure that Pathfinders International will become a pan continental brand - built organically on a station by station basis - based on the solid foundations that have already been laid by the business to date.

Joanne Moore

dre aviation


September 2023



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