17 Private Jet Owners Drag Federal Government To Court Over N30bn Tax

By Damilare Adeleye

The Federal Government of Nigeria has been sued by owners of foreign-registered private jets, including leading business moguls, top commercial banks and other well-meaning Nigerians over an imposition of tax.

The plaintiffs are seeking judicial review to prevent the government from taking over their planes for allegedly refusing to pay import duty on the jets.

The Nigerian Voice confirms that Nigerian Government last November approved the decision of the Nigeria Customs Service to ground 91 private jets belonging to some rich Nigerians over their alleged refusal to pay import duties running to over N30bn.

Following a presidential approval, the NCS in a memo directed the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency to ground the affected private jets forthwith.

The directive was, however, not carried out owing to issues bothering on inter-agency rivalry and disagreements.

However, it was learnt from multiple sources that the past few months, the Customs has been making silent moves to perfect the process of grounding private jets whose owners failed to pay the import duty.

Consequently, 17 private jet owners have approached court to stop the Federal Government agency from implementing the order.

The court papers obtained by this newspaper revealed that the jet owners are seeking a judicial review as to whether it is lawful for them to pay the controversial import duty on their private jets or not.

The jet owners sued the government using the foreign shell companies and trustees through which the foreign-registered jets were bought.

Findings shows that the jet owners approached the Federal High Court Abuja seeking the court to determine, among other things, if they were liable to pay import duty.

The suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1565/2021, is described as the matter of an application for judicial review by foreign registered aircraft against the Nigeria Customs Service and Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority.

The 17 applicants, which are mostly foreign companies of the Nigerian jet owners are: Aircraft Trust and Financing Corp Trustee, UAML Corp, Bank of Utah Trustee, Masterjet AVIACAO Executive SA, and Cloud Services Limited.

Others include MHS Aviation GmbH, Murano Trust Company Limited, Panther Jets, SAIB LLC, Empire Aviation Group, and Osa Aviation Limited.

The list also are: BUA Delaware Inc, Flying Bull Corporation Limited, Air Charter Inc, Sparfell Luftahrt GmbH, WAT Aviation Limited, and ATT Aviation Limited.

The NCAA and Customs were listed as respondents.
In a written address in support of the first respondents objector notice of preliminary objection, the court paper read in part, “The brief facts of this case are that the first respondents, having discovered that some operators of aircraft imported them under the guise of Temporary Importation Permit, were permanently imported into Nigeria and given TIP status to evade payment of lawful customs.”

Meanwhile, the hearing date is yet to be fixed for the suit.