The Chairman and CEO of Quits Aviation Services Limited, Sam Iwuajoku, has reacted to the insistence of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) that private jets operating in Nigeria must pay customs duties, saying aircraft registered outside Nigeria ought not to be requested to pay the levy.
Iwuajoku, who said this in an exclusive interview with THISDAY, expressed surprise over the action of the NCS, saying customs officers ought to know that aircraft registered outside Nigeria does not operate permanently in the country and therefore ought not to pay the tax.
Iwuajoku who operates the Quits Aviation Services Free Trade Zone spoke in response to the threat issued by the NCS to impound 29 private jets whose owners did not pay statutory import duties to the federal government.
The customs had threatened that the 29 private jets would be impounded if the owners did not show up at the expiration of 14 days ultimatum it had given. The NCS also explained that within the stipulated period of verification, 86 private jets or airplane operators showed up for the exercise and presented relevant documents for verification, adding that 57 of them were verified as commercial charter operators and were duly cleared for operations, but 29 private jets/airplanes owners or their representatives were as of October 11, given 14 days to make payments to designated federal government accounts for them to be issued Aircraft Clearance Certificates after payment.
But speaking with THISDAY, Iwuajoku stressed that the NCS ought to understand that it has no right to ask for duty payment from foreign registered aircraft because those aircraft were leased and not owned by Nigerians.
“Customs is right if you have Nigerian registered aircraft with 5N and before you register you must pay customs duty and I think this is where government is getting it wrong. They should understand the situation well before they act,” Iwuajoku advised.
He also warned that the NCS should not chase away investors with its insistence that private jets should pay customs duty, saying Nigeria was benefiting from their operations in the country.
“The amount of money these aircraft make for Nigerian government is more than the cost of registration. They pay for their services in dollars, including landing and parking.
“All the services they pay for they do so in dollars and government agencies are benefiting so Customs should look at the larger picture. Even if the money is not going to Customs, other government agencies are getting the money. The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) is paid by these operators in dollars,” Iwuajoke said.