Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

Private Jets Audit: Nigerian VIPs poor response raises integrity question

0

BY EGUONO ODJEGBA

As the time frame for owners of private jets to submit themselves to compliance checks draws to a close Friday, August 6, 2021, uneasy calm pervades the camp of stakeholders, including the aviation industry, as less than 70  private jet owners are believed to have complied with the demand to submit to compliance tests.

Ali, Customs boss

Settle Systems Advert

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) had on 31st May 2021, directed owners of private air crafts to report to its headquarters with evidence of the payment of 1.0 per cent Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme, CISS, levy, amongst other compliance receipts.

At the end of the initial time frame fixed for June 7 to July 6, 2021, only 58 responded, forcing the NCS on July 8, 2021 to announce an extension by two weeks which expired during the Sallah holiday, July 20, 2021.

Although it is not clear while the directive appeared to have received poor response despite adequate publicity by the customs, and despite threats of sanctions, grapevine reports that majority of those that declined the invitation are VIPs holding critical positions in society, some of whom are the ruling All Progressive Party (APC), opposition parties, high heel business tycoons and clergies.

Customs had explained that part of the reasons for the exercise is the need for enhance national security and to further plug revenue leakages, and more than that, to ensure that the private aircrafts are operating legally.

Comptroller General of Customs, retired Col. Hameed Ali had expressed confidence that being VIP personalities, jet owners will cooperate with the federal government to make the verification process easy and timely; and done in an atmosphere of chivalry and civic responsibility.

As is the norm, Ali who spoke through the Customs National Public Relations Officer, Deputy Comptroller Joseph Attah, however, warned that defaulters will be visited with the full weight of the law, assuring that no one will be treated as a sacred cow.

A Gulf Stream Model popular with up-comers owners in Nigeria

“In line with the need to ensure strict compliance with all regulations, especially at this time of challenging security situation and reluctance of some highly placed individuals to pay taxes, Nigeria Customs Service will be taking stock of all privately owned Air crafts in the Country.

“This is to ensure strict compliance with all relevant regulations governing importation of such Aircrafts”, Attah said.

He listed the documents sought for verification to include the following: aircraft certificate of registration, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA’s) Flight Operations Compliance Certificate (FOCC), NCAA’s Maintenance Compliance Certificate (MCC), NCAA’s Permit for Non-Commercial Flights (PNCF) and Temporary Import Permit (TIP) (where application).

Owners or their representatives were advised to report to room 305, Tariff and Trade Department, Nigeria Customs Service Headquarters, Abuja from Monday June 7 through Tuesday July 6, 2021 between 10:00am and 5:00pm daily, with all the relevant documents for verification.

While clarifying that private jets do not pay Customs duties, Attah however noted that this category of aircrafts are expected to pay the mandatory Comprehensive Imports Supervision Scheme (CISS) charges; and further noted that there will be no penalty attached to nonpayment of the essential fees hitherto, except that such outstanding or nonpayment would have to be done now, in a matter of responsible buyer-owner obligation.

“We want to ensure all charges due to the government are paid. The move is not punitive but to ensure compliance. If deficiencies are found, there will be room for correction. We are aware Nigeria is facing security challenges and there is a downturn in global economy and so any legitimate thing that will boost our revenue is welcome.

“We need to know who owns what and we want to know how they came in, to ensure that nothing untoward happened”, he added.

A private jet picking up an owner in front of the Legend Hotel MMIA Lagos

Sadly, the exercised appeared to have been reduced to a rat race game as some of the VIPs are believed to have shown open disrespect for the exercise, trumping ego over national issues, and thus forcing the Customs to shift the scheduled time frame just to continue to continue to accommodate the nation’s elitist class that who should otherwise be leading by example.

On account of this poor demonstration of character and integrity as it were, the NCS weekend, announced yet a further extension of the audit by two weeks, with the latest terminal date fixed for Friday, August 6th 2021, two days from today; as the current extension commenced on Monday, July 26, 2021.

This is even as the Service disclosed that out of 65 air crafts so far checked for compliance, 30 were yet to pay the required duties. Customs Spokesman, Attah in a statement on Sunday, August 1, 2021 said some of the planes came into the country through Temporary Importation (TI) agreement which allows them to bring in the jets without payment, since such purchases are secured by bond.

Attah also explained that the verification has also made it possible for the Service to differentiate between planes used for commercial operations and those strictly used for private purposes in the country.

He reiterated that the verification was not meant to embarrass anybody other than to ensure that appropriate duties have been paid to government by owners of the private jets. Although Attah explained that the extensions graciously acceded to by the CGC is based on the positive result of the earlier extension, during which some owners who were unable to meet the initial time frame, availed themselves of the extra time, and further noted that the leadership of the service has never shined away from demonstrating the required understanding and official courtesy whenever such becomes necessary.

“Considering the rising number of compliance and the number of jets that are liable for payment of duties as well as indications by those people to do so, the Comptroller-General has again graciously given them another two weeks.

“The exercise as I stated in our previous briefings, is not intended to be punitive or to embarrass them but to ensure that these private jets that operate in the country are properly documented.

“And also, to ensure every collectable revenue is collected into the coffers of the Federal Government. As you all know the case of increasing economic challenge, every source of revenue is important to the government and beyond that, for security purpose.

“With this, you can now tie proper ownership to every aircraft or private jet that flies into and out of the country. Through the exercise, we have been able to know those hiding under temporary importation agreement.

“We are aware that owners of private jets are highly placed Nigerians who should be respected and approached in a manner that provides all necessary convenience and that is what these extensions stands for”, he explained.

Strangely, the poor response has been associated with suspected claims of big mannism and uncharitable rhetoric bothering on charlatanism that tend to question the exercise, despite the high level courtesy the Customs have accorded it on the basis of its elitist composition.

The rumour mill indicate that defaulting VIPs are not just from the political space but initially included some of the high heel clergy personalities, said to have felt embarrassed by the  directive, which they allegedly termed ‘unwarranted and insulting’.

A source who spoke anonymously said, “Some of the private jet owners this customs man is summoning are men of timber and caliber, they hold the APC government, and when you say you don’t care who they are, that you will penalize them if they don’t come, such threats are uncalled for. Let us see how he would impound their jets.”

Above posturing emphasis the oft reference that the rot of a society is driven by its elites. In 2018, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) put the total number of private jets in Nigeria at 146, with just 46 of the number reportedly registered in Nigeria, while 100 are believed to have foreign registration.

In May 2017, an estimated 30 private jets landed at the Minna Airstrip for the wedding ceremony of the daughter of Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangid, Nigeria’s former military head of state. The display of private jets by privileged Nigerians have featured in public discourse, as some of the unnecessary lifestyles dogging our growth.

Private parking lounge for some Nigerian clergy

There have been insinuations and allegations of irresponsible tax behaviour by the elites, who it is believed evade taxation, robbing the country of accruable revenues. Only recently, May 2021 to be precise, NCAA reportedly apprehended some private jet operators said to have been involved in commercial operations, without proper documentation, proper licensing and or clearance.

The agency was believed to have slammed a 60 days sanction on some of the black market operators.  How they  saga panned out remained in the realm of imagination, as NCAA, like other agencies of government, did not deem it fit to apprise Nigerians with update of that ugly development.

Although the Customs gave indication that the exercise will receive no further extension, given the discrepancy in the 2018 report of the number of private jets in Nigeria, vis-a-viz the 65 that submitted to the audit, only time will tell what may follow.

Instructively, it will be recalled that while the exercise was ongoing, the Customs stated it uncovered a number of infractions ranging from duty evasion and breach of temporary importation agreement.

Customs spokesman, Attah, who disclosed above recently, declined to mention names of the defaulting jet owners found to be operating in breach of duty payment, adding however that those concerned have indicated interest to pay what is due to government.

Attah, had during a media briefing July 7, 2021 announced the first extension of the audit, said: “At the end of the verification period, a total number of fifty-eight (58) private aircraft owners complied.  Infractions discovered during the verification exercise include: “Breach of Temporary Importation agreement; Non appropriate payment of duty and taxes.

“Interestingly, those in default have indicated interest to pay with some already commencing the process by making appropriate declarations. Considering the level of response and indications for more, the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd) has graciously extended the verification period for 14 days, i.e 7th to 20th July 2021.”

However, NCS, yesterday, August 1, 2021, announced a further extension of the audit by two weeks, expected to lapse on Friday, August 6th 2021, two days from today; bearing in mind that the current extension commenced on Monday, July 26, 2021.

The Service vowed to recover the indebtedness of 30 defaulting jet owners into the coffers of the federal government. Attah explained that some of the planes which came into the country through Temporary Importation agreement, however failed to turn up to pay on the expiration of the agreement, being some of the observed discrepancies that necessitated the verification.

Attah also explained that the additional extension is based on the positive result of the earlier one, during which some jet owners who were unable to meet the initial time frame, availed themselves of the extra time, noting that the leadership of the service has never shined away from demonstrating the required understanding and courtesy due to the various public’s the service is obliged to deal with.

“Considering the rising number of compliance and the number of jets that are liable for payment of duties as well as indications by those people to do so, the Comptroller-General has again graciously given them another two weeks.

“The exercise as I stated in our previous briefings, is not intended to be punitive or to embarrass them but to ensure that these private jets that operate in the country are properly documented.

“We are aware that owners of private jets are highly placed Nigerians who should be respected and approached in a manner that provides all necessary convenience and that is what these extensions stands for”, Attah explained.

 

 

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Translate »