Top corporate interests and owners of private jets with foreign registrations have sued the Federal Government to prevent it from suspending their aircraft over an alleged refusal to pay import duties.
In November, the government gave its approval to the Nigeria Customs Service’s decision to ground 91 private jets owned by affluent Nigerians due to their alleged reluctance to pay more than N30 billion in import charges.
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency were ordered by the NCS in a letter to immediately ground the affected private aircraft in accordance with a presidential authorisation for the levy.
However, due to issues bothering on inter-agency rivalry and disagreements, the relevant government agencies could not ground the private jets.
It was learnt, however, that the customs service has been making moves to perfect the process of grounding private jets whose owners failed to pay the import duty.
To counter the planned action of the Nigerian Customs Service, about 17 private jet owners have gone to court to stop the Federal Government from implementing the order.
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.
They sued the government using the foreign shell companies and trustees through which the foreign-registered jets were purchased.
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, BUA Delaware Inc, Flying Bull Corporation Limited, Air Charter Inc, Sparfell Luftahrt GmbH, WAT Aviation Limited, and ATT Aviation Limited.