FEC okays N1.1bn for Maiduguri airport expansion, 22 airports' insurance – Newstrends
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FEC okays N1.1bn for Maiduguri airport expansion, 22 airports’ insurance

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The Federal Executive Council has approved the sum of N1.1bn for the expansion of the apron of Maiduguri airport and insurance cover for 22 airports across the country.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, stated this in Abuja on Wednesday at the end of the council’s meeting presided by President Muhammadu Buhari.

He said, “The first memo was a contract for the expansion of the apron of Maiduguri airport. This contract is worth N719,117,868.60.

“The expansion of the Maiduguri airport has become necessary because of the increased traffic at the airport that apron needs to be expanded to avoid aircraft being parked wing to wing and that might result in accidents.

“The second contract was for insurance and it was awarded to ensure assets such as terminal buildings in 22 airports belonging to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria in the sum of N390,055,687.45 and both memos were approved by council.”

He also spoke about his briefing to the Council on the outcome of a meeting with stakeholders in his home state, Kwara, in the aftermath of the #ENDSARS protest in the state.

“We had about 39 other stakeholders ranging from CAN, JNI, the Youth Organisations, ASUU, NMA, NBA, and the whole idea was to reach out to as many stakeholders as possible – market men and market women,’’ he added.

Ministers of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouk, and that of Mines and Steel Development, Uche Ogah, said they also briefed the council on the outcome of their meetings with stakeholders in their respective home states in the aftermath of the #ENDSARS protests in Zamfara and Abia.

Ogah dismissed the allegation of extortion against the police in the South-East.

He said the presence of security officials in the zone had continued to attract investments to the South-East.

“I presented my report from my state, Abia and Hon. Emeka Nwajiuba presented for Imo State and we were able to convey Mr President’s message to the people in our various states.

“Majorly, one highpoint that I want to say critically was in Abia, a documentary was done showing issues concerning war. There is no need for anybody to encourage war any more.

“War does not bring prosperity but peace brings prosperity to the entire world, and that is why we stand for one indivisible nation, Nigeria for everyone.

“That’s what Mr President stands for and this government has done a lot for this nation within this period which we shared with the people and they are happy with the performance of the Federal Government.”

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Customs ground bank’s jet over unpaid import duty

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Customs ground bank’s jet over unpaid import duty

The Nigeria Customs Service has grounded a United States-registered Gulfstream G650ER jet belonging to a leading Nigerian bank over unpaid import duty.

This, according to a PUNCH report signalled the commencement of government’s clampdown on owners of private jets over unpaid import duty running into billions of naira.

The development came barely two weeks after the NCS began a one-month verification of private jet owners in the country.

The exercise, which began on June 19, 2024, is expected to end on July 19, 2024.

In a public notice by the Customs, the exercise aims to identify private jet operators that have illegally imported aircraft into the country without paying the necessary import duties.

The customs had recovered about N2bn into the government coffers when a similar exercise was carried out in 2019.

At least 80 private jet owners are expected to present their import documents and aircraft certificate of registration to the Customs in Abuja during the one-month exercise.

Although the grounding of private jets which fail to pay the necessary import duty is expected to begin after the one-month Customs verification exercise, findings showed that moves by some operators to export their aircraft might have forced the NCS to begin the clampdowns on some private jet operators.

The Nigeria Customs Service had last week said some operators of foreign registered private jets were temporarily flying their aircraft out of the country apparently in a bid to evade the exercise.

However, findings by The PUNCH on Sunday disclosed that a luxury Gulfstream G650ER plane belonging to a tier-1 bank had been grounded at Lagos airport over unpaid import duties reportedly estimated at N1.9bn.

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It was learnt that the NCS had written the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency asking them to cancel the flight clearance approval given to the private aircraft.

Our correspondent gathered that the agencies had received the letters to distrain the US-registered Gulfstream G650ER with registration number N331AB and manufacturer’s serial number 6487.

The bank is reportedly owing about N1.9bn in unpaid import duties to the government on two formerly owned private jets (Gulfstream G450 and Gulfstream G550 aircraft), which according to sources have since been taken out of the country.

It was also understood that the assessment of N1.9bn was based on a verification exercise carried out by the NCS in 2021.

It was learnt that going by the current exchange rate, the N1.9bn might be raised to about N6bn. Aircraft import duties are computed based on prevailing exchange rate.

NCAA and NAMA officials said they had received the cancellation of the previously granted flight clearance approval for the Gulfstream G650ER aircraft.

According to the letter, the luxury aircraft which cost over $65m, was found to have contravened the Federal Government’s import duty regulations and as such denied the necessary Export Permit by the Customs Service Area Command at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.

A copy of the letter written to the NCAA and NAMA, which was sighted by one of our correspondents, was titled “Re: cancellation of flight clearance approval for Gulfstream G650ER with registration N331AB and manufacturer’s serial number 6487.”

The letter read in part, “The above subject matter refers.  The Nigeria Customs in its drive for enhanced revenue collection decided to do a verification exercise on private airlines operating in Nigeria.

“The verification aims to identify privately owned aircraft that were inappropriately imported into the country. This will enable the Service to perfect these Imports and collect revenue accruable to the Federal Government.

“The above-cited aircraft has been found to have contravened the Federal Government’s import duty regulations and as such denied Export Permit by the Customs Service (MMIA Command).

“In furtherance to the above, we are soliciting your kind co-operation and assistance to deny flight clearance approval”

The Comptroller General, NCS, Adewale Adeniyi, had two weeks ago said a good number of private jets were leaving the country as the verification began.

Adeniyi, who disclosed this while speaking in an interview with Arise Television, stated that since the exercise started,  only a few owners have shown up.

“Very few of them (private jet operators) have showed up for verification and we gather intelligence that a good number of them are leaving Nigeria since the announcement was given because they would not want to be verified,” he said.

The CGC explained that the service introduced the private jet verification exercise because more private jets were operating outside the ambits of the law.

“We have seen so many of these aircraft flying and our record tends to show that only a few of them have shown up to pay duty and this is why we are bringing this verification up,” he said.

The CGC disclosed that data obtained from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority revealed that though many private jets were operating in the country, only a few had paid customs duties.

Adeniyi explained that when the exercise started sometime in 2019, the service realised N2bn.

“Recall this was not the first time we did it. We did something close to this in 2019 and the exercise fetched us as much as N2bn within the short time that we did it.

“We discovered that there are more private jets that are operating in Nigeria but have not been brought under the ambit of the law. So the data that we got from the NCAA shows that only very few of them paid customs duty to operate in Nigeria,” he stated.

According to the customs boss, the international aviation regulations show that private jets flying in the country are obliged to pay duty.

“If they are here for a brief period in the Nigerian airspace and return, they are not obliged to pay any duty; that is, if they are here on a temporary importation visit. But once they are here and are used within Nigeria, they are liable to pay duty,”

The CGC reiterated that the verification exercise was meant to confirm “aircraft operating within the ambit of the law and those that are operating outside the law.”

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According to a Customs notice, private aircraft owners are expected to bring some documents for the verification exercise, namely 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).

The latest clampdowns on operators of improperly imported private jets came more than one year after the Federal Government suspended the action.

In the past three years, the government had planned to recover import duty running into billions of naira from some private jet operators who had used certain technical loopholes to evade the payment of import duty.

A few private jet owners paid the mandatory import duty after the Hameed Ali-led NCS took some significant steps to recover the revenue.  However, several owners and operators of private jets in the country have yet to pay the statutory duty.

Many private aircraft operators in the country have allegedly explored technical loopholes in the regulation to fraudulently obtain a Temporary Import Permit from the Nigeria Customs Service instead of paying the statutory import duty on their imported aircraft.

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

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

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.

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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.

Meanwhile, National Public Relations Officer, NCS, Abdullahi Maiwada, recently confirmed the verification exercise, which began two Wednesdays ago.

Sometime in 2021, about 17 owners of foreign-registered private jets, comprising top business moguls, leading commercial banks, and other rich Nigerians, dragged the Federal Government to court, seeking to stop the grounding of their planes over alleged import duty default.

This came after the Federal Government approved the decision of the Nigeria Customs Service to ground about 91 private jets over their alleged refusal to pay import duties running to over N30bn.

The NCS had in 2021 embarked on a review of import duties paid on private jets brought into the country since 2006.

At the end of the 60-day exercise, 57 private jets, which had licences for commercial charter operations, were cleared and issued Aircraft Operators Certificates 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 liable for import duty payment.

Customs ground bank’s jet over unpaid import duty

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Tinubu okays Ibadan airport upgrade, work begins in three weeks 

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Tinubu okays Ibadan airport upgrade, work begins in three weeks 

Construction of a new terminal, runway expansion and other structural features of Ibadan airport will begin in three weeks time, Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, said on Wednesday.

This is coming after President Bola Tinubu’s approval of the proposed upgrade of the airport,

The governor said his administration’s efforts to have the Ibadan Airport, Alakia, upgraded to an international airport had yielded positive results.

Governor Makinde made this known when he received the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Hassan Baba Abubakar, at the Executive Chamber, Governor’s Office, Secretariat, Agodi, Ibadan.

The project, according to the governor, would include the construction of a new terminal, runway and other structural features, adding that it would be handled by experts and delivered to standard.

According to the governor, his administration had spent the last five years turning around the state’s economy and had identified the need for the upgrade of the Ibadan Airport as being central to its economic expansion agenda.

He added that his government’s resolve to build infrastructure that targets the economic expansion agenda has also seen it investing resources on the 110 kilometres of Ibadan Circular Road, stating that the administration would consider the Air Force’s request for land for its post-retirement housing scheme on the Circular Road corridor.

“We have been talking to the Presidency and we got a response from them early this week that the President has graciously approved my request for Ibadan Airport to be upgraded,” he said.

“I will be in Abuja soon to get the documents relating to the approval. And within three weeks, we will start the project. We will expand the runway and build a new terminal.

“Since I came into office, this administration has focused on education, agriculture, health and expansion of our economy.”

The governor, who appreciated the Chief of Staff for his officers’ effort in working with sister security agencies to secure Oyo State, urged that the cordial relationship between the Force and the people of the state be maintained.

According to the governor, the Air Force has been a major contributor to the maintenance of internal security in Oyo State, as its personnel have been working closely with Operation Burst.

He said the administration was committed to working with the Air Force to deliver the Air Force Base in Ajia, Ibadan, with a promise of speedy completion of the road leading to the base.

He also explained that the government was fixing several roads along the Air Force Base axis that would facilitate easy movement of personnel and equipment.

Earlier in his speech, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Abubakar, described the governor as a visionary leader, thanking him for his support to the Air Force.

He acknowledged the governor’s focus on economic development and enhancing security in the state, noting that the acquisition of 60 hectares of land for the Air Force Base at Ajia and the provision of security operational vehicles were commendable efforts of the governor.

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Aviation unions open airport terminals as flight operations resume

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Aviation unions open airport terminals as flight operations resume

Flight operations have resumed at major  airports in Nigeria after labour unions suspended their nationwide strike on Tuesday.

Aviation unions have opened barricaded airport terminals, following suspension of the indefinite strike by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC).

Francis Akinjole, General Secretary of Air Traffic Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), said the strike was ‘relaxed’ for a week to enable the unions to continue talk with the Federal Government on a new minimum wage.

Akinjole said all blocked access points at the Lagos domestic airport terminals I (General Aviation Terminal) and II (Murtala Muhammed Airport II) and others had been opened.

Alale Adedayo, President General of Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP), said that the organised labour had accepted Federal Government’s offer for continued negotiations.

Adedayo said that flight operations had resumed on the domestic wing of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja.

It was also learnt that the situation was the same in other major airports such as Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that activities at the domestic wing are in full swing.

Passengers were seen boarding Value Jet, Ibom Air, Arik Air and United Nigeria Airline at Murtala Mohammed Airport II managed by Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Ltd.

Muyioluwa Maraiyese, a Value Jet passenger going to Abuja, said he expected the labour unions to barricade roads during the strike to disallow road transport since they disrupted flight operations.

However, at the Lagos to Abuja check-in stand of the Air Peace, it was announced that flights had been rescheduled.

An aggrieved passenger of the airline, Monalisa Phillip, said the airline did not give any reason for the flight reschedule.

NAN reports that the NLC and TUC on Tuesday suspended the indefinite strike for a week to enable continued negotiations with the Federal Government on a new minimum wage.

The unions embarked on the strike on Monday following inconclusiveness of negotiations on a new minimum wage.

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