Senate Wants Zero Customs Duty, VAT for Aviation Sector
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The federal government has been advised to consider exempting the aviation industry from the payment of customs duty and value added tax (VAT).
These exemptions would be for the importation of commercial aircraft and spare parts, according to the Senate, which debated the huge challenges facing the sector at the moment.
In March 2020, the federal government shut down the nation’s airspace as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and operations were only allowed to resume six months after.
Even after the resumption, most airlines are struggling to operate at full capacity because of the various policies put in place to curb the spread of the virus. Some of them have asked for a bailout.
At the plenary on Tuesday, a member of the upper chamber of the parliament, Mr Adamu Aliero, moved a motion to look at the issues raised by operators in the industry.
He argued that the issues of multiple taxations, payment of import duty and commercial taxes raised by airline owners in Nigeria were genuine, calling on his colleagues to implore the federal government to take actions that would save the sector.
In his contribution, Mr Smart Adeyemi, threw his weight behind the motion, emphasising that “other countries gave bailout fund to their aviation sector” because the industry is key to the development of the economy.
“If airline operators say they can’t clear their goods because of VAT, then the government needs to look into that. The federal government should allow the aviation sector to be tax-free for at least three years,” the former president of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), submitted.
At the end of deliberations, the federal government was asked to upgrade decaying infrastructures at the nation’s airports and fast-tracking the clearance of Aircraft-on-Ground (AOG), spare parts and facilitate the availability of jet air.
The government was also advised to fully implement the Executive Order on Zero Customs Duty and VAT on importation of commercial aircraft and aircraft spare parts and also implement the Executive Order of the removal of VAT and then eliminate multiple taxes, fees and charges on airlines.
The Senate also asked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to make foreign exchange readily and easily accessible for the sector and make interest rate a single digit for airlines which will reduce the cost of capital;
IFC Invests $13m to Support Ecotourism, Conservation in Sub-Saharan Africa
By Adedapo Adesanya
The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has announced a $13 million investment in the Africa Conservation and Communities Tourism Fund (ACCT Fund) to support the post-pandemic recovery and sustainable growth of sub-Saharan Africa’s ecotourism sector.
The investment will support ecotourism businesses in and around conservation areas in East and Southern Africa, with a focus on South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zambia.
The ACCT Fund will invest in operators of safari camps, hotels, and lodges, helping them address liquidity shortages while recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fund will also help them refurbish, renovate, and expand their operations, especially where the businesses can achieve meaningful conservation and community development impact.
Impact investment and advisory group, ThirdWay Partners, and The Nature Conservancy, a global environmental non-profit organization, established the ACCT Fund, a structured debt vehicle, in 2021 in response to COVID-19-related challenges affecting the ecotourism sector.
Based on IFC estimates, the ACCT Fund is expected to contribute at least $530 million to economies where it invests through direct, indirect, and induced effects in the agriculture, retail, transportation, and recreational sectors. IFC expects the investment to also save about 21,200 full-time jobs.
“We are very grateful for IFC’s support of this innovative and very important initiative,” said Mr Maarten Weehuizen, Managing Director of the ACCT Fund. “The ACCT Fund is an impact investment vehicle which balances financial goals with a clear conservation and community impact agenda.”
“Tourism is critical to the long-term survival of conservation landscapes across the African continent, to the benefit of the people and the wildlife who depend on them,” Mr Weehuizen added. “Even prior to the COVID pandemic, these areas were under significant pressure; tourism provides jobs in rural areas, funding for nature protection and its activities with guests in these landscapes significantly reduce the risk of poaching, deforestation, and land conversion.”
Ecotourism businesses are committed to protecting the environment and wildlife where they operate.
“As part of this innovative blended finance approach, IFC has partnered with the Nature Conservancy, a global environmental conservation organisation, to support sustainable ecotourism and deliver impact to small tourism operators,” said Mr Sérgio Pimenta, IFC Vice President for Africa. “IFC’s investment in the ACCT Fund will help financially affected ecotourism businesses to preserve jobs and contribute to the local economy. The partnership aligns with IFC’s strategy to support the revival of domestic and regional tourism markets and to use a blend of financing tools to support countries’ development priorities.”
With the financing from IFC and other investors, the fund has now reached a final close with a total of $70 million raised. The ACCT Fund is structured using a blended finance approach with three tranches of capital: grant funding, junior equity, and senior equity funding.
In addition to financing, IFC will also provide non-commercial risk mitigation and capacity building by supporting the development of climate guidelines that will contribute to setting standards for the sector and help operators improve their environmental performance by reducing energy and water use and improving waste management.
Group Begs EFCC to Probe Sirika Over N15.9bn Nigeria Air Project
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been urged to probe the immediate past Minister of Aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika, over the controversial Nigeria Air, which it said it gulped N15.9 billion.
Last Friday, as promised by Mr Sirika, a Nigeria Air-branded aircraft landed at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, but hours later, it returned to Ethiopia after it was discovered that the aeroplane had a registration number of Ethiopia Airlines.
There have been controversies surrounding the proposed national carrier for more than six years but the Minister promised that it would become a reality before the end of the administration of Mr Muhammadu Buhari, who handed over the country to his successor, Mr Bola Tinubu, today, Monday, May 29, 2023.
A Nigerian-based anti-corruption group, SecureWorld and Liberty Initiative for Peace (SELIP), wants the EFCC to investigate Mr Sirika for allegedly committing fraud and economic sabotage.
In a petition to the anti-money laundering agency, the group said the unveiling of the national carrier was against a directive of a court, which stopped the process.
In the notice addressed to the EFCC Chairman, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, the organisation, through its Executive Director, Mr Mark Adebayo, averred that the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos headed by Justice A.L Allagoa, in a suit filed by the Airline Operators of Nigeria, had granted three separate orders of injunctions, restraining the federal government from taking any step about the Nigeria Air project “but the Minister in a desperate bid to cover up the monumental fraud in the deal elected to flagrantly disobeyed an order of a court of competent jurisdiction and produced a sham called unveiling of Nigeria Air flight last Friday.”
“We are compelled to bring to your attention that the aircraft purportedly unveiled on Friday, May 26, 2023, by Minister Sirika, as the first flight of the national carrier, Nigeria Air, is still in active service of Ethiopia Airlines. We can confirm that the aircraft, a Boeing 737-800 with the registration number ET-APL, has since left the country this weekend for Turkey according to a check on the flight radar; it only transited Nigeria for the farce of a show put up by the minister.
“The flight landing in the country with Ethiopia Airlines’ registration number means Nigeria Air has no Air Operator Certificate. No aircraft can be registered in Nigeria without the carrier having an AOC, which means that the aircraft does not belong to Nigeria Air either as leased or owned equipment. So, Sirika should not be allowed to fool Nigerians,” the group said in the petition.
The group urged the anti-graft agency to make Mr Sirika account for N15.9 billion that has been committed so far to the project by the federal government, alleging that the desperation by the minister is geared towards covering up the misappropriation of funds and monumental fraud.
“The unveiling was a desperate attempt to justify the N15.9 billion appropriated by the federal government to Nigeria Air since 2016.
“The phantom project has continued to lick up budgetary provisions; N1.3 billion was allotted to it in the 2023 budget with an additional N700 million as ‘working capital’ and N200 million as consultancy fee; so, the minister must not be allowed to hoodwink Nigerians with the ‘importation of a rented aircraft into the country and pass it off as a step to the commencement of the operation of the airline days to his exit from office. This act of fraud and economic terrorism must not be allowed to go unpunished,” the petition read.
The group countered Mr Sirika’s claims that Nigeria Air Limited is a private sector-led airline, with only five per cent of the company owned by the Nigerian government, a consortium of entrepreneurs in Nigeria with 46 per cent, and the Ethiopian Airlines with 49 per cent.
“There’s no agreement with the stakeholders in Nigeria, so on what basis has a painted plane be brought in to deceive Nigerians?
“The lack of transparency on funding and alleged zero consideration for local players and national interest is frightening as the proposed Shareholders’ Agreement which is yet to be signed the, reserves all Executive Directors positions for the Ethiopians with Nigerians as deputies,” the group said.
“We have confidence that the EFCC will do justice and timely, too, to get to the bottom of this scam and save Nigeria’s Aviation Industry from the impending doom,” it noted.
FG Rejigs Aviation Agencies for Efficiency
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The federal government has reorganised some agencies under the Ministry of Aviation, with new directorates created for efficiency and the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari obtained for the changes.
A statement from the ministry said the Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, Corporate Services and Aviation Security Directorates had been created to adequately address complaints from stakeholders.
Also, the Aviation Security Directorate was created in the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to regulate the activities of AVSEC personnel, especially with their recent arms-bearing status, while the Corporate Services Directorates was saddled with the responsibility of overseeing the Procurement and Planning, Research and Departments.
The disclosure noted that Mr Buhari had approved the appointment of Mr Kabir Yusuf Mohammed as the new Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
Until his appointment, Mr Mohammed was the Regional General Manager, Central Region Airports, FAAN and Chairman of the Aviation Roadmap Implementation Committee.
Similarly, Mr Tayib Odunowo has been appointed the substantive Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA). He will take over from Mr Matthew Lawrence Pwajok, who reverts to his substantive position as Director of Operations of the agency.
The Directors-General of the Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB), Mr Akin Olateru, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), Prof Mansur Matazu and Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu are to run the remaining course of their tenures in line with the Acts setting up their respective Agencies, while the Rector of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology Zaria, Captain Alkali Modibo has been granted a one-year extension, also in line with the Act setting up the College.
In order to reposition the Agencies to perform their statutory duties, the Minister of Aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika, has also approved the appointment of some new Directors.
The appointments are:
- Managing Director – Mr Kabir Yusuf Mohammed –
- Human Resources and Admin. – Shehu D. Mohammed
- Commercial and Business Management – Olumuyiwa Femi-Pearse
- Corporate Services – Barr. Azubuike Okorie
- General Manager (Statistics) – Kingsley Uchechukwu Okunji
- General Manager (Special Duties) – Jemilu Abdulrahman
- Director General/CEO – Capt Musa S. Nuhu
- Director, Airworthiness Standards – Engr Gbolahan Abatan
- Director, Aerodrome and Airspace Standards – Engr. Godwin Balang
- Director, Operations – Capt. Ibrahim Danbazau
- Director, Air Transport Regulations – Mr Olaniyi Saraku
- Director, Public Affairs and Consumer Protection – Capt. Chris Najomo
- Director, Aviation Security – Air Cdr Hambali Tukur
- Director, Corporate Services – R. M. Daku (Mrs)
- Company Secretary/Legal Adviser – Mrs Mary Tufano
- General Manager (Audit) – Mrs Dawa Gyaks
- General Manager (Accounts) – Mr Aminu Tasi’u
- Director General/CEO – Engr Akin Olateru
- Director, Finance and Accounts – Mr Ori Bassey
- Director, Public Affairs and Consumer Protection – Dr James A. Odaudu
- Director, Corporate Services – Oliobi Godfrey Ikemefuna
- Transport Investigation – Capt Tosin Odulaja
- Company Secretary/Legal Adviser – Barr. Illitrus Ahmadu
- Director General/CEO – Prof Mansur Bako Matazu
- Human Resources and Admin. – Saleh Tukur Yusuf
- Director , Weather Forecasting Services – Daniel Okafor Chibueze
- Public Affairs and Consumer Protection – Ahmed A. Sanusi
- Director, Research and Training, Prof Effiong Essien Oku
- Director General/CEO – Engr A. Tayib Odunowo
- Director, Operations – Matthew Lawrence Pwajok
- Director, Public Affairs and Consumer Protection – Khalid Emele
- Corporate Services – Mr Uchendu Chibuzo Oji
- General Manager, Public Affairs – Amaka Udeh Walker (Mrs)
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