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Nigerian govt summons 80 private jet owners over operating licences

 

The Federal Government, through the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), has initiated a new effort to address the issue of improperly imported private jets.


According to recent findings, around 80 private jet operators have been summoned to the NCS headquarters in Abuja to present their aircraft import documents.


This special aircraft import verification exercise begins tomorrow and is set to run for 30 days. A public notice from Customs outlines the objective of the exercise: “The Nigeria Customs Service announces a verification exercise for privately owned aircraft operating in Nigeria. This exercise aims to identify improperly imported private aircraft without documentation, ensuring proper imports and maximum revenue collection.”


Private jet owners and operators are required to bring several documents to the verification, including:


– Aircraft Certificate of Registration

– Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority’s (NCAA) Flight Operation Compliance Certificate

– NCAA’s Maintenance Compliance Certificate

– NCAA’s Permit for Non-Commercial Flights

– Temporary Import Permit (if applicable)


This crackdown follows a year-long suspension of similar actions by the Federal Government. Over the past three years, efforts have been made to recover import duties worth billions of naira from private jet operators who have exploited regulatory loopholes to evade these payments. While some jet owners have paid the mandatory import duties after significant steps by the NCS, many have yet to comply.


Several operators have allegedly used Temporary Import Permits (TIPs) to avoid paying the statutory import duty. A TIP, valid initially for 12 months and extendable by six months twice, has been indefinitely extended by some operators, prompting previous crackdowns by Customs.


According to sources, about 80 private jet operators are expected to participate in the verification exercise, including operators of 20 aircraft imported since the last exercise. The NCS aims to ensure payment of the mandatory import duty, with the possibility of grounding non-compliant jets.


The TIP loophole has been criticized as a fraudulent means of evading import duties. Private jet importers, particularly those with foreign-registered aircraft, are supposed to pay 5% of the jet’s value as import duty. However, due to the high cost of private jets, many owners prefer to use TIPs, citing the International Civil Aviation Organisation Convention’s Article 24, which allows for customs waivers for commercial aircraft temporarily operating in a country.


The new Customs leadership is determined to enforce the payment of import duties. Unconfirmed sources suggest the government could collect nearly N100 billion in unpaid duties due to the high exchange rate. This figure could increase if Customs implements a 25% penalty fee for delayed payment, in addition to the 5% import duty.


Whether private aircraft operators will cooperate remains uncertain. Some have previously taken legal action to avoid paying these duties. The NCS National Public Relations Officer, Abdullahi Maiwada, confirmed that the verification exercise will begin on Wednesday.


As this exercise unfolds, it will be critical to monitor its impact on compliance and revenue collection for the Federal Government.


 

(Punch)

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