By Favour Nnabugwu
A total number of 91, out of 147, identified owners and operators of private jets have failed a verification test conducted by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) in October.
Under a directive from the Federal Government, Comptroller-General of Customs, Col Hameed Ali, (retd.), has issued a letter to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency to ground the said private jets immediately.
Owners of 62 jets refused to attend the mandatory verification exercise. A total of 86 private jets and aircraft operators showed up and only 57 were verified as commercial charter operators.
“29 other private jets/aircraft were found liable for payment of Customs duty,” said Comptroller Joseph Attah, Public Relations Officer of Customs. The NCS issued a 14-day ultimatum for payment of duties and submission of verification papers back in October.
Some unidentified sources in NCS disclosed that the senior Pentecostal churches pastors, the chief executive officers of several indigenous oil companies, and the chairmen of some top tier banks are among these owners.
NCS further revealed that the refusal to pay import duties by these 91 owners is running to over N30bn. Several of these owners have sent protest letters to the NCS, stating that they cannot pay import duties on the planes because they are under lease payments.
Furthermore, several aviation sources said that the Ministry of Aviation is showing strong indications that it has directed the suspension of the grounding of the flight operations.