The United States, yesterday, deported 34 Nigerians over alleged immigration and related offences.
The deportees arrived at the cargo session of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMlA), Lagos, aboard a chartered Omni Air International aircraft with Registration Number W342AX.
The Spokesman of the Lagos Airport Police Command, Joseph Alabi, confirmed the development, saying: “At about 14:30 hours (2:30 p.m.), we received 34 Nigerians who were brought back from the United States. They were made up of 32 males and two females.”
He said 25 of the persons were alleged to have committed criminal offences, with one involved in narcotics.
Others were alleged to have committed immigration-related offences.
Alabi said the deportees were received by officers of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and the police.
Also involved were officials of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
He said the deportees were profiled by the relevant authorities and allowed to depart to their various destinations.
Airline operators, meanwhile, commended the Federal Government’s removal of the controversial mandatory five per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) on air travel tickets.
The operators, who recently had threatened to stop paying the tax, thanked President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government for listening to the cries of domestic airlines in the country.
The Guardian learnt that the action was effected by an Executive Order stating the removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) from “All Forms of Shared Transportation”, following the Federal Executive Council (FEC) Meeting o June 6, 2018.
The VAT is among 37 sundry charges, under the guise of taxes and levies at airports nationwide that account for at least 65 per cent of revenue accruing to the airlines.
The Chairman of the Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON), Capt. Nogie Meggison, said they had, for decades, called for discussions on the immediate removal of VAT from domestic air transportation, in line with global best practices.
He said: “VAT is an added burden on our passengers who have limited disposal funds and have reached their elastic point in this difficult time in the nation’s economy.
“This adversely affects the sector by reducing the number of those who can afford to travel by air, due to high fares.
This has been shown to be true, according to a recent report from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) that passenger traffic dropped by 27 per cent in 2017 and by another seven per cent in the first quarter of 2018, making it a total of 34 per cent drop in passenger traffic within a span of one year.”
He said domestic air travel in Nigeria is the only mode of commercial transportation that pays VAT.
“VAT on commercial air transportation is a huge departure from what obtains worldwide and is an increased burden on Nigerian travellers.
Ghana, Benin Republic, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire, located next door to us, have all abolished VAT for air transportation.
“The recent decision by the Federal Government to remove VAT from domestic air transportation will go a long way in bringing succour to groaning Nigerian travelers.
They will be able to afford travel by air, and the growth in demand for domestic air travel will lead to the creation of jobs by the entire air transport service chain (airlines, airports, ground handlers and catering companies), as well as increase revenues for government.
“This is a step that Ghana took over a year ago and the benefits are there for all to see today, as Accra is fast becoming the aviation hub for West Africa,” he said.