The Nigerian Federal Government has directed the Nigeria Customs Service to ground 91 private jets belonging to some wealthy Nigerians over their alleged refusal to pay import duties running to over N30bn, documents obtained by the Lagos-based The PUNCH newspapers have revealed.
As such, the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col Hameed Ali, (rtd.) following a directive from the Presidency, has written a letter to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency asking the agencies to ground the affected private jets with immediate effect.
The letter, with reference number NCS/T&T/ACG/042/s.100/VOL.II, which was dated November 2, 2021, was addressed to the Director-General, NCAA, Capt Musa Nuhu.
A copy of the letter, which was obtained by one of our correspondents, was also addressed and sent to the Managing Director, FAAN, Capt Rabiu Yadudu; and the Managing Director, NAMA, Capt Fola Akinkuotu.
The letter directed the aviation agency regulator (NCAA), the nation’s airspace management agency (NAMA), and airport management agency (FAAN), to ground the private jets by denying them administrative and operational flight clearances indefinitely.
Findings revealed that the letters were received by the aviation agencies on November 8, 2021.
According to documents, the NCS letter to NAMA was delivered with reference code 19755747 by the courier company, while the NCS letter to FAAN was referenced 19755746 by the courier firm.
The NCS letter, which was delivered to the NCAA, was also referenced 19755748 by the courier firm.
It was titled, ‘Recovery of Aviation Import Duty on Privately Owned Aircraft Operating in the Country.’
The NCAA letter read 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.
“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.”
Independent findings by The PUNCH revealed that some of the 91 private jets directed to be grounded belong to the senior pastors of some popular Pentecostal churches in the country, some Tier-1 banks with one of the banks owning two upmarket jets, the chief executive officers of some indigenous oil companies, and the chairmen of some Tier-1 banks.
“The 91 private jets owe import duties in excess of N30bn and the Federal Government has directed that the Customs must recover this money. This is why we have sent demand notices to the private jet owners,” a Customs source privy to the development told one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity.
Findings by our correspondents revealed that the NCS had in March this year embarked on a review of import duties paid on private jets brought into the country since 2006.
Following the alleged discovery that several private jets owners, under the guise of Temporary Import Permit, had failed to pay the statutory import duty to the coffers of the government, the CG of Customs, Ali, set up a verification panel to review all TIPs and the relevant aircraft import documents of all private jets in the country.
At the end of the 60-day exercise, 57 private jets, which had licences for commercial charter operations, were cleared and issued Aircraft Operators Certificate by the Customs.
However, 29 private jets, whose owners came for the verification were found to be liable to pay the import duty.
The Customs also compiled a list of another 62 private jets whose owners failed to appear for the verification exercise but were found to be liable for import duty payment.
However, other private jets whose owners have commenced the process of paying their import duty have been given a 14-day ultimatum to clear the debts, while the list of the 91 private jets whose owners have yet to present themselves for import duty payment has been presented to the aviation agencies by the NCS for the immediate grounding of their flight operations.
According to independent findings by our correspondents, some of the owners of the 91 jets have written protest letters to the NCS, arguing they cannot pay import duties on the planes because the jets are under lease payments.
The Customs, in its response to the letters, queried the rationale for bringing in the planes and allegedly fraudulently exporting them under questionable documentation processes in the past 10 years.
However, in a new twist to the development, there are strong indications that the Ministry of Aviation has directed the NCAA, FAAN and NAMA to suspend the grounding of the flight operations of the affected private jets, according to aviation sources.
Sources at the aviation agencies said the aviation ministry had directed the CEOs of the agencies to put the implementation of the NCS directive on hold until a clearance from the ministry was obtained.
The development could not be verified as of press time on Sunday but findings from the control towers and NAMA by The PUNCH revealed that some of the jets were still being cleared to fly.
When contacted on the matter, the Director, Public Affairs, Federal Ministry of Aviation, Dr James Odaudu, told one of our correspondents that he would find out if the letter from the customs was submitted to the ministry.
Odaudu said he was not aware of the position of aviation agencies on the matter and promised to make enquiries from the official who might have received the letter.
He said, “I cannot respond to that now because I don’t have the information. But if the Customs letter is in the ministry, I will find out tomorrow (Monday).
“When I get to the office tomorrow I can find out who is handling it and revert to you.”
Meanwhile, there are indications that the Customs may clash with the aviation ministry over the development as sources said the NCS officers might begin to impound the affected private jets any time soon.
A cursory look at the list of private jets shows that majority of them are upmarket aircraft.
Some of the top brands among the 29 private jets whose owners came for the Customs verification exercise are: Dassault Falcon 7X, Falcon 900EX, Hawker 4000, Bombardier BD 700 1A10, Bombardier Global 5000, Bombardier Global 5500, Bombardier Challenger 605, Gulf Stream Aerospace, Bombardier BD 700,, and Bombardier Challenger 604.
Others are Embraer 505, Bombardier Global 6000, Embraer Legacy 600, Embraer Legacy 650, Bombardier INC CL 600-2B19, Challenger 601 3A-ER, Gulfstream G-IVSP, Gulfstream G450, Gulfstream G550, HS125-B50XP, EMB505 Phenom 300, Cirrus SR 20V, and Hawker 800XP
On October 13, 2021, the NCS had published a list of 57 private jets cleared for commercial charter in a newspaper publication, following the 60-day verification exercise. It also published a list of 29 and 62 private jets liable to pay import duty.
Some of the jets go for over $50m each, according to finding by one of our correspondents.
Meanwhile, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Quits Aviation Services Limited, Sam Iwuajoku, had on October 13, 2021, said private jets operating in Nigeria ought not to be requested to pay any further levy.
Iwuajoku reportedly said the NCS ought to know that aircraft registered outside Nigeria does not operate permanently in the country and therefore ought not to pay the tax.
Iwuajoku, whose firm operates the Quits Aviation Services Free Trade Zone, spoke against the backdrop of the publication by the NCS on October 14, 2021, asking private jet owners to pay statutory import duties to the Federal Government.
“The amount of money these aircraft make for the Nigerian government is more than the cost of registration. They pay for their services in dollars, including landing and parking.
“The services they pay for are done in dollars and government agencies are benefiting, so Customs should look at the larger picture. Even if the money is not going to Customs, other government agencies are getting the money. The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency is paid by these operators in dollars,” he added.
However, industry stakeholders say there are regulations requiring taxes to be paid on a private jet inasmuch as the aircraft is domiciled in the country or staying for a relatively long period of time, say 60 days or 180 days, depending on the laws of the country.
Tinubu Presents His First Budget As President On Wednesday
President Bola Tinubu will present the 2024 budget to the National Assembly on Wednesday.
This is according to a memo dated November 27, 2023, signed by the federal legislature’s Secretary of Human Resources and Staff Development, Shuaibu Maina Birma, on behalf of the Clerk to the National Assembly.
“I am directed to inform you that the 2024 Budget would be presented by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at the Joint Session of the Senate and the House of Representatives on Wednesday, 29th November, 2023,” it read.
Meanwhile, the Federal Executive Council has approved a 2024 budget of N27.5 trillion.
This followed the review of the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework earlier passed by the National Assembly which benchmarked the exchange rate at N700 to $1 and crude oil price at $73.96 cent per barrel.
Briefing State House Correspondents shortly after the Federal Executive Council meeting at the Presidential Villa, the Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Abubakar Bagudu, said it revised the MTEF and the Fiscal Policy to use an exchange rate of N750 to $1 and also a benchmark crude oil reference price of $77.96 per barrel.
According to Bagudu, the FEC also approved an Appropriation Bill for 2024 with an aggregate expenditure of N27.5 trillion, an increase of over N1.5 trillion from the previously estimated.
He also noted that using the old reference prices, the forecast revenue is now N18.2 trillion which is higher than the 2023 revenue, including that provided in the two supplementary budgets, in which the deficit is lower than that of 2023.
Senate Seeks Nigeria’s Inclusion In $147billion Global Bitumen Market
…passes Bitmen Development Commission Bill for second reading
The Senate Thursday made legislative move of including Nigeria in the $147billion global bitumen market with passage for second reading , a bill seeking for establishment of Bitumen Development Commission .
Nigeria as stated in the bill sponsored by Senator Jimoh Ibrahim ( APC Ondo South) , has quantum of 5.9trillion barrels ( 938billion m³) of global in – place Bitumen and heavy oil resources , second to Venezuela .
He specifically informed the Senate that more than 80% of the resources are found in Canada , United States of America , Venezuela and Nigeria .
But lamented that while other countries blessed with the Natural resources are exploiting it through required legislations or legal frameworks , Nigeria’ has no legal framework for such exploration with attendant untapped opportunities and huge market loss .
Therefore according to him, ” the objectives of the Bill includes: the need to develop a legal framework for the regulation of the Bitumen development in Nigeria; to prevent unconventional sources from taking advantage of research-enhanced applications over other competitors; and to lead innovation and resource-based strategy in the development of bitumen in Nigeria.
“The Bill will also ensure effective utilisation of over 38 billion reserve of bitumen in Nigeria; and to promote economic diversification policy of the Federal Government”.
He added that the Bill among other reasons, seeks to restrict the activities of the commission to its regulatory and cordinating functioons , specifically as it relates to the Develooment of Bitumen in Nigeria .
Ondo State alone according to him , has the highest deposit in Africa with an estimated value of $42billion which are aside from depisits in Ogun State , Edo , Lagos and Akwa- Ibom States .
” The proposed Bitumen Development Commission when established , would fastrack the development of Bitumen in Nigeria , make her a key player in the $147billion global market and create instant 12, 000 jobs for Nigerians .
” It would also help Government at various levels to put in place asphalted roads in various communities .
” Out of the 200, 000 kilometres of roads in Nigeria , only 20, 000 are asphalted even with imported Bitumen which is not good and being addressed with the proposed commission” he said .
Many of the Senators who contributed to debate on the bill , concurred with Jimoh Ibrahim’s submissions , making the Senate as put to voice votes by its President , Godswill Akpabio , passed it for second reading .
Akpabio who commended Senator Jimoh Ibrahim for sponsorship of the development – driven bill, mandated the Senate Committee on Solid Minerals to make further legislative inputs on it and report back in a month’s time .
Barau Offsets Postgraduate Student’s Cancer Treatment Bills
The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Barau Jibrin, has paid the medical and surgery bills of Abdurrabah Idris Yahaya, a 30-year-old Kano State indigene and M.Sc. student who has been battling cancer.
Abdurrabah, a resident of Bankaura/S.Doka area of Ungogo Local Government of Kano State, who had been receiving treatment from home, went viral on social media, seeking assistance following medical doctors’ advice that he undergo surgery.
Worried by Abdurrabah’s situation and the urgency of the doctors’ advice, the Deputy Senate President sent a delegation with the sum of N1.45 million to offset his medical and surgery bills.
Represented by his Chief of Staff, Professor Muhammad Ibn Abdullahi, Senator Barau expressed concern over the health condition of the student who is a beneficiary of his Postgraduate Scholarship Scheme.
While urging the patient and his family to remain prayerful, as every illness is the will of Allah, Senator Barau prayed for the quick recovery of the student.
“The Deputy President of the Senate is deeply worried since he heard about the situation of this young, talented man’s health. As such, he sent us the sum of N1,450,000 as required by the doctors for his surgery.
“Strengthen your faith in Almighty God, Abdurrabah will be okay by the grace of Allah,” he said.
He reiterated the commitment of Senator Barau to supporting people in education, health, and other areas for the development of society irrespective of their constituents, region, or state.
While appreciating the Senator, the mother of the patient, Malama Halima Haruna, who could not hold back her tears, said she had no words other than prayers for the Senator.
Speaking on her behalf, Abdurrabah’s elder sister, Nafisa Idris Yahaya, said they had been pleading for support from people, but Senator Barau has, by his financial assistance, wiped away their tears.
“We received the sum of N1,450,000 from the Deputy President of the Senate. In the past, Senator Barau had paid for his scholarship for a master’s degree. Here he is again, assisting our family. We have been looking for where to get money for the surgery, but today is our happiest day. We appreciate him for this. May Almighty Allah reward him abundantly,” she said.
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