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FG calls in 80 private jet owners for scrutiny of operating licences

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FG calls in 80 private jet owners for scrutiny of operating licences

The Nigerian Customs Service, on behalf of the Federal Government, has launched a new initiative aimed at cracking down on private jet operators with improperly imported aircraft in the country.

It is anticipated that approximately 80 private jet operators will be summoned to the NCS headquarters in Abuja to present their aircraft import documents for inspection.

This special aircraft import verification exercise is set to commence on Wednesday and is scheduled to run for a duration of 30 days, as outlined in a public notice issued by Customs.

The notice stated, “The Nigeria Customs Service hereby announces a verification exercise for privately owned aircraft operating in Nigeria. The objective of this exercise is to detect improperly imported private aircraft lacking documentation, in order to ensure proper imports and maximise revenue collection.”

In accordance with the notice, owners and operators of private jets in the country are required to bring along essential documents for the verification process, including the aircraft Certificate of Registration, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority’s Flight Operation Compliance Certificate, NCAA’s Maintenance Compliance Certificate, NCAA’s Permit for Non-Commercial Flights, and Temporary Import Permit if applicable.

This recent effort to crackdown on improperly imported private jets comes after a previous suspension by the Federal Government over a year ago.

Over the past three years, the government has been working towards retrieving import duty amounting to billions of naira from certain private jet operators who exploited technicalities to evade paying the required import duty.

Although some private jet owners complied with the mandatory import duty payment following interventions by the Hameed Ali-led NCS, several others are yet to fulfill their legal obligations.

There have been allegations that many private aircraft operators in the country have circumvented regulations to obtain a Temporary Import Permit from the Nigeria Customs Service instead of paying the necessary import duty on their aircraft.

The TIP, which is valid for an initial period of 12 months, can be extended by six months twice, according to the regulations.

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However, several operators of private jets in the country have continued to extend the TIP indefinitely, a development that prompted the Customs to effect past clampdowns.

According to new findings by our correspondents, no fewer than 80 private jet operators are expected to present their aircraft import documents for verification during the one-month exercise.

“Based on the data we have, we are expecting no fewer than 80 private aircraft operators for the verification exercise. These include operators of about 20 private aircraft that have been imported since the last verification exercise,” a top official close to the verification exercise told The PUNCH on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter

The exercise is expected to lead to the payment of the mandatory import duty, while aircraft operators who fail to pay may have their jets grounded.

The TIP has been described by some stakeholders as a fraudulent means of evading the mandatory import duty. Importers of private jets, especially foreign registered private jets, are expected to pay five per cent of the value of the private jet as import duty.

However, due to the high cost of private jets, some owners often prefer not to pay the import, according to Customs officials.

Instead, the operators prefer to obtain a TIP under the guise that the aircraft is coming into the country for a temporary period, quoting the International Civil Aviation Organisation Convention Article 24 which focuses on Customs waiver for commercial aircraft operating in a country temporarily.

But the new leadership of Customs appears poised to get all operators to pay the import duty.

Unconfirmed sources said the government might get close to N100bn in unpaid import duty on imported private aircraft due to the high exchange rate.

This analysis is however dependent on whether the Customs chooses to implement the 25 per cent penalty fee such aircraft owners are meant to pay for delayed payment. The 25 per cent penalty fee is in addition to the statutory five per cent import duty.

It is unclear If the private aircraft operators will be willing to cooperate with the government to pay the duty.

Some operators had in the past gone to court to stop the government from collecting the revenue.

Meanwhile, National Public Relations Officer, NCS, Abdullahi Maiwada, on Monday, confirmed the verification exercise, which is scheduled to begin on Wednesday.

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