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Private jet owners drag FG to court over N30bn tax

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Owners of foreign-registered private jets, comprising top business moguls, leading commercial banks and other rich Nigerians, have dragged the Federal Government to court seeking to prevent the government from grounding their planes for allegedly refusing to pay import duty on the jets.
The Federal Government had last November approved the decision of the Nigeria Customs Service to ground 91 private jets belonging to some wealthy Nigerians over their alleged refusal to pay import duties running to over N30bn.

As such, following a presidential approval, the NCS in a letter directed the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency to ground the affected private jets with immediate effect.

But owing to issues bothering on inter-agency rivalry and disagreements, the relevant government agencies could not ground the private jets.

However, in the past few months, the Customs has been making underground moves to perfect the process of grounding private jets whose owners failed to pay the import duty, multiple sources close to the development confirmed to The PUNCH on Tuesday.

Also,  further findings by our correspondents over the weekend revealed that at least 17 private jet owners had gone to court to stop the Federal Government from implementing the order.

According to the court papers, 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 had sued the government using the foreign shell companies and trustees through which the foreign-registered jets were purchased.

Oftentimes, Nigerians and corporate bodies buy their foreign-registered private jets through foreign shell companies and trustees.  Experts believe they often prefer to register the jets in foreign countries like the United States, United Kingdom, and Isle of Man, among others, to preserve the value of the aircraft in the event they want to sell it, as well as pay cheaper insurance premiums.

The latest findings showed that the jet owners had approached the Federal High Court Abuja seeking the court to determine, among other things, if they were liable to pay import duty.

The suit, with number 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.

According to the court document, 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 are MHS Aviation GmbH, Murano Trust Company Limited, Panther Jets, SAIB LLC, Empire Aviation Group, and Osa Aviation Limited.

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

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Alaba traders shut market to collect PVCs

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•Alaba International Market

Traders at the two major markets at the sprawling Lagos International Trade Fair Complex, Balogun and Article markets, yesterday shut their shops to collect Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).

The measure was a decision by the management of the markets to give traders in the commercial hub the opportunity to get their PVCs at ward areas ahead of the January 29 Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) deadline.

Those who fail to collect the cards at the ward centre at the expiration of the deadline will have to go to INEC offices in their local government secretariats to collect same.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the automobile spare parts market within the complex was shut last Saturday for the same purpose.

Spokesman for Balogun Market, Mr. Leo Ogbonna, told NAN that the shops were shut to encourage the traders to collect their PVCS and exercise their franchise on Election Day. (NAN)

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Banks hoarding new Naira notes for next month’s elections – Shehu Sani

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Former lawmaker, Senator Shehu Sani has alleged that banks are hoarding the redesigned Naira notes for politicians in the February elections.

There has been outrage across the country over the scarcity of new notes as banks continue to dispense the old notes despite the approaching deadline.

The Central Bank of Nigeria, which earlier directed that the old notes be phased out on January 31, had urged customers to persuade banks for the new notes.

Less than 11 days to the deadline, customers are yet to access the notes in banks.

Speaking on the matter, Shehu Sani in a tweet on Saturday alleged that politicians are conniving with banks to hoard the new notes for the February election.

According to him, the refusal of the banks to release the notes defeated the ultimate aim of the redesigning.

He wrote, “Banks are hoarding the new currency from the public with the intent of making it available for politicians next month to be able to buy votes.

“The ultimate aim of redesigning the national currency is defeated”.

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Enugu Electricity Distribution Company increases tariff by 13%

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EEDC

The Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC), has said the recent minor electricity tariff adjustment of about 13 per cent reflected current economic realities in the country and was necessary to keep the electricity industry alive.

The Head, Corporate Communications of EEDC, Mr Emeka Ezeh, disclosed this to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Enugu on Sunday.

The tariff rate for Non-MD customers under R2SB class increased from N58.47 to N66.47 per kilowatt.

Ezeh spoke on the sidelines of complaints by some customers over the surprise increase in tariff per kilowatt they noticed which cuts across all categories of customers within the company’s network franchise area in the South-East.

He said that the minor adjustment, which took effect from Dec. 1, 2022, was approved by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) some months ago across all electricity distribution companies in the country.

According to him, there is a minor adjustment by some percentage across board in the whole electricity distribution companies nationwide currently and it is not peculiar to EEDC alone.

He said: “The minor increase in the rate of tariff approved by NERC is for Electricity Distribution Companies (DisCOs) to meet up with the current economic realities in the power/electricity sector.

“Currently, the sector is seriously affected by the high inflationary rate in the country; as it affects our daily operational maintenance and services to our esteemed customers in our network.

“The issue of high foreign exchange rate is affecting our business too in terms of importing most of our spare parts needed for daily maintenance and repairs in the network.

“The high foreign exchange rate also impact on EEDC ever increasing investment on installations to further expand and fortify the network, leading to the improved services customers are experiencing within the South-East.”

The EEDC spokesman appealed for the understanding of its esteemed customers, adding that if the indices mentioned and other factors “turn positive tomorrow; we belief that NERC will review the tariff downwards”.

“The recent development is for us to remain in business, service our customers better and maintain obligations to other stakeholders within the sector/industry,” he added.

However, customers within EEDC network in Enugu have continued to complain that the increase is already tightening the existing economic hardship.

They were of the view that before now, the high inflationary rate of about 22 per cent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), was even affecting how their families feed daily.

Mr Obinna Nwafor, a resident of Achara layout in Enugu, noted that it was terrible that the residents cannot get any economic respite; “as there are so many struggles to survive in the country”.

Nwafor said: “I wish this increase has not come now; so that at least we can have a sector that is relatively stable and not being affected by the nationwide inflationary trend”.

Mr Jude Onyia, a resident of Uwani axis of Enugu metropolis, urged EEDC to consider those in the lower categories of their tariff line and exclude them from the increase.

“It is clear that those of us in the low category of the tariff cannot easily meet up and other alternatives to electricity are quite costly too,” Onyia said.

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