Airlines groan over delay in President’s directive on import duty waiver

Three months after President Goodluck Jonathan directed the removal of import duty on aircraft and spare parts, airlines are still groaning over the failure of the Federal Ministry of Finance and its parastatal, the Nigeria Customs Service (NSC) to implement the directive.
Consequently, the development has adversely affected the importation of airplanes and spare parts, as the operators are hampered in their bid to re-fleet with younger and modern aircraft to boost their operations.
Not a few believe that the waiver was a new development that would bring ‘’speedy’’ development to the aviation sector.

The crash of Dana on June 3, 2012 in Iju-Ishaga, a suburb of Lagos, killing over 153 passengers shifted focus of the operators to relatively younger airplanes, even though the age of an aircraft does not in any way determine the safety of the aircraft.
Aircraft engineers had stated that a poorly-maintained brand new aircraft is more dangerous than well maintained old airplanes, admitting that there are many factors that contribute to air disasters rather than the age of aircraft. Aircraft, they said are built to last for more than two decades, adding that aircraft engine life cycles rather the year an aircraft was built are what matters in the life of an aircraft.
Experts said this is not the first time a President would give a directive on removal of import duty waiver. They cited former President Olusegun Obasanjo giving the same directive in 2006, backing it up with letters that were allegedly not carried out.
The retired Air Marshall Paul Dike committee set up by Obasanjo to help tackle the decay in aviation sector after the devastating crashes of Bellview and Sosoliso Airlines in 2005, had in its report recommended to the Federal Government in 2006 to cancel the percentage of tax being charged on spare parts in order to assist the commercial airline operators to improve their business in the country.
This time around, Jonathan mentioned it when he presented the 2013 budget but nothing has been done to effect its implementation.
According to the president, the pronouncement was to enable the airline operators to be able to maintain their aircraft instead of taking it abroad for repairs at high cost.

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