The Federal Government has directed the Nigeria Customs Service to ground 91 private jets belonging to wealthy Nigerians over their alleged refusal to pay import duties running to over N30billion. In a letter written to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali has directed the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) to ground affected private jets with immediate effect.
Information available to Vigil360news revealed that the letters sent to NCAA, NAMA, and FAAN were received on November 8, 2021 and titled “Recovery of Aviation Import Duty on Privately Owned Aircraft Operating in the Country.”
The NCAA letter reads in part: “The Federal Government in its drive for enhanced revenues has mandated the Nigeria Customs Service to immediately recover from defaulting private aircraft owners the required statutory import duties on their imported aircraft.
“You may wish to recall the verification exercise conducted by the NCS, initially scheduled for a 14 day period, but magnanimously extended over a 60-day period from 7th June through 6 August 2021, following a World Press Conference held on 31st May 2021. The outcome of the aforementioned verification exercise is a compilation of all private aircraft imported into the country without payment of statutory import duty.
“The Nigeria Custom Service, in line with its statutory functions, is empowered by Part 111 Sections 27, 35, 37, 45,46, 47, 52, 56,63 & 64; Part XI Sections 144, 145, 155, 160, 161& 164 and Part XII Sections 167, 168, 169, 173 & 174 of the Customs and Excise Management Act.”
It further read, “In this regard therefore, your full cooperation is being solicited to ensure the success of this initiative and that all such private aircraft owners or representatives are denied administrative and operational flight clearances indefinitely, until an NCS issued Aircraft Clearance Certificate is procured and presented to your organisation as proof of compliance.
“For the avoidance of doubt, ALL aircraft operated in accordance with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority’s regulation for the issuance of Permit for Non-Commercial Flight and those issued with Flight Operations Clearance Certificate and Maintenance Clearance Certificate accordingly are affected by this directive.
“Please find attached the list of all verified aircraft and indeed others of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority’s register, which may not have come forward for your record and necessary action. Strict compliance with this directive is to be ensured. Please accept the assurances of my highest regards and esteem as always.”
According to CG Customs, the NCS had reviewed the import duties on private jets brought into the country in 2006 and discovered several aircrafts owners brought them in under the guise of Temporary Import Permit (TIP), failing to pay the respective duties to the government.
Col. Ali directed the setting up of a verification panel to review all TIPs and other relevant aircraft import documents of private jets in the country, and 57 private jets with commercial charter operations licences were cleared and issued Aircraft Operators Certificate by Customs, while 29 private jets owners were found liable to pay the import duty.
Other private jets owners who commenced paying their duty have been issued a 14-day ultimatum to complete their payments while a list of 91 private jets owners have been presented to NCS for grounding.
However, some affected jets owners have written a protest letter to NCS, noting that they cannot pay import duties on planes that are under lease payments.
Vigil360news reports that the 91 grounded private jets belong to wealthy Nigerians including business moguls, senior pastors, Tier-1 banks, CEOs of oil companies and Chairmen of Tier-1 banks among others.