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UKRAINE-RUSSIA: Poland delays evacuation of trapped Nigerians, to arrive today

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A Ukrainian negotiator yesterday said that a second round of talks with Russia is over but it didn’t deliver any results that Ukraine needed.

“The second round of negotiations is over. Unfortunately, the results Ukraine needs are not yet achieved. There is a solution only for the organization of humanitarian corridors,” senior Ukrainian official  Mykhailo Podolyak said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, Russian chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky also confirmed the news of agreement of the corridors and a possible ceasefire around them, describing the talks as “substantial progress”.

Meanwhile, both have agreed to create humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians in a second round of talks since Moscow invaded last week, a top Ukrainian official said.

Russian president Vladmir Putin said the Russian military has offered safe corridors to civilians to allow them to leave areas of fighting in Ukraine.

Speaking in a video call with members of his Security Council, Putin alleged Ukrainian nationalist groups are preventing civilians from leaving. The Russian leader said the groups were also using civilians as shields, taking up firing positions to provoke the Russian retaliatory fire. Putin’s claim couldn’t be independently verified.

Polish authority reschedules release of trapped Nigerians to today Airline

Meanwhile, the much-publicized return of trapped Nigerians from the Russian-Ukraine was due for yesterday, will now happen today, as the evacuation could not take place because the evacuation was rescheduled by the Polish authority.

One of the Airlines sent to evacuate the Nigerians said they could not board the returnees yesterday, the Polish authority yesterday rescheduled the release of Nigerians to today.

“Yes, they (stranded Nigerians) are not coming in today (yesterday) again. Their evacuation has been rescheduled for tomorrow, Friday,” the airline said.

Also explaining the delay, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official, Bolaji Akinremi, disclosed that the flight was postponed to March 4, 2022, due to a delay in preparing passengers for the check-in process.

He said: “The reality is that the flight has been rescheduled to tomorrow the main reason is the delay in doing the checking because they have to gather them together from different hotel.

“By the time we will be ready after the checking in, the crew that have been waiting for us since 9a.m., have over shot the hour they should have waited because they have a duty hour which has been allocated to them and they had waited from 9a.m., till 2p.m., that means they have already waited five hours.

“They are going to have nine hours flight that is already more than the standard, so, the authority of the airport said they won’t allow us to board. This is the reality, we have to calm down but arrangement had been made that we all stay together in the same hotel and that we will leave very early tomorrow 4a.m., we will be in the bus and then we can join the flight.”

Recall that the Federal Government had on Wednesday in a statement by Ambassador Gabriel Aduda, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said it would commence the evacuation of stranded Nigerians, who fled Ukraine to neighbouring countries, following the conflict between the country and Russia.

Putin says Russian operation in Ukraine going according to plan

The Russian president has said Russia’s military operations in Ukraine were going according to plan and praised its soldiers as heroes.

“I want to say that the special military operation is going strictly according to schedule, according to plan,” Putin said, opening a meeting with his security council.

“We are at war with neo-Nazis,” the Russian leader said, adding: “I will never give up on my conviction that Russians and Ukrainians are one people.”

Russian invasion of Ukraine unjustifiable — ILO

The International Labour Organization, ILO, yesterday condemned Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying “the unprovoked and unjustifiable attack by the Russian Federation against Ukraine conducted without regard to international law, and the continuing loss of life, and immense human suffering that it is inflicting on the people of Ukraine.”

ILO’s Director-General, Guy Ryder, in a statement in Geneva, Switzerland, joined the General Assembly of the United Nations in deploring in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine and demanding that it immediately cease its use of force and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.

According to him, “This stands among the darkest chapters in the ILO’s century long history and a brutal repudiation of our organization’s mission to promote peace through social justice. Those responsible for the aggression know full well that among its first victims will be working people and that the devastation of jobs, enterprises and livelihoods will be massive and endure for many years.

Ukraine believes Belarus troops receive order to cross border

The Ukrainian military has said it believes Belarusian troops have received the order to cross the Ukrainian border. Ukraine has said Russia is using Belarusian territory for missile attacks on Ukrainian cities and Minsk allowed Russian troops to enter Ukrainian territory.

Bosnians relive past war trauma of war

For those who survived the Bosnian war of 1992-1995, the war in Ukraine has brought back painful memories and renewed worries for the future.

If Ukraine falls, Baltic states ‘next’, Zelensky warns

Ukraine’s president has called on Western powers to deliver more military aid to his country, warning that Russia’s military will not stop at Ukraine’s borders if Moscow seizes full control of its neighbour.

“If you do not have the power to close the skies, then give me planes!” Zelensky said at a news conference, referring to refusals from Kyiv’s Western allies to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

“If we [Ukraine] are no more then, God forbid, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia will be next,” he added.

The term “no-fly zone” refers to an area of airspace in which it has been determined that certain aircraft are not permitted to fly. In a conflict setting, the measure is primarily used to prevent aerial attacks from taking place.

Emergency service says 22 killed in Chernihiv air raids

Ukraine’s emergency service says at least 22 people have been killed in Russian air raids on Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv region. The service said in a post on Twitter that rescue work was ongoing. It did not specify where the alleged attack took place.

Earlier the regional governor said at least nine people had been killed by an air raid on two schools and private houses. Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify either claim.

Dozens of OSCE states back mission to probe possible war crimes

Forty-five of the 57 Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) member states are triggering a system to set up a mission of experts looking into possible war crimes by Russia in Ukraine, the United Kingdom has said.

“They are invoking the so-called ‘OSCE Moscow Mechanism’ to set up a mission of independent experts to … establish the facts and circumstances of possible cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including due to deliberate and indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure,” the UK’s mission to the OSCE said.

Russia and Ukraine are both members of the body. People are seen carrying belongings out of a residential building destroyed by shelling. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked a major humanitarian crisis.

Second round of Ukraine-Russia talks under way

A second round of negotiations between delegations from Russia and Ukraine has begun.

The meeting is reportedly taking place in Brest, southwestern Belarus.

It comes after a first round of talks held at the Ukraine-Belarus border on Monday ended with no agreement except to keep talking.

Ukrainian negotiator Davyd Arakhamia said on Facebook that Kyiv plans to discuss setting up humanitarian corridors before moving on to other issues during the latest bout of discussions.

Volkswagen stops business with Russia as major firms respond to war

German car giant,  Volkswagen (VW) said it would stop its vehicle production in Russia “until further notice” and “immediately” halt exports to Russia in light of the attack on Ukraine.

VW operated its own car production sites in Kaluga, south-west of Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod, further east.

The company yesterday, announced that production at both sites would be stopped for the time being. No cars from among the VW Group brands, including Audi, Porsche and Skoda would be exported to Russia, it said in a statement.

On Wednesday, luxury car maker Mercedes-Benz said it was halting business with Russia. Selling to or buying from Russian companies had become far harder in the days since the Kremlin launched its invasion due to sanctions imposed by the international community.

German car makers had  been particularly hard hit and the conflict had affected for example the provision of wiring harnesses from Ukraine that relayed  information and electric power around a vehicle.

Several car manufacturers had announced temporarily halts in production at some of their German sites in the past two days.

It is not only German car makers that have been affected by the conflict.

Toyota yesterday said it would suspend production at its St Petersburg plant from Friday due to supply chain disruptions, the plant manufactures RAV4 and Camry models, mainly for the Russian market.

The car maker said it had already stopped all activities in Ukraine as of February 24.

International sanctions prompted a number of key global companies to announce that they were winding down or reducing business with Russia.

These include among many others Boeing, Apple, ExxonMobil and shipping company Maersk. Music and podcast streamer Spotify said it was closing its offices in Russia but it would continue to make its services available in Russia “to allow for the global flow of information.”

 

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Private Jet Owners Sue Government Over N30 Billion 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.

17 jet owners

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 seen by The PUNCH, 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.

The NCAA and Customs were listed as respondents.

In a written address in support of the first respondents objector notice of preliminary objection, the court paper read in part, “The brief facts of this case are that the first respondents, having discovered that some operators of aircraft imported them under the guise of Temporary Importation Permit, were permanently imported into Nigeria and given TIP status to evade payment of lawful customs.”

A hearing date is yet to be fixed for the suit, according to preliminary findings by our correspondent.

However, there are strong indications that the NCS is making frantic efforts to get the private jet owners to pay the import duty.

Multiple sources confirmed on Tuesday that the NCS was not giving up on the decision to collect the revenue on behalf of the Federal Government, having obtained a presidential approval on the matter.

It was gathered that the agency might take a major decision on the matter very soon. It was further learnt that the Customs is in possession of government documents indicating that the private jet owners are by law required to pay import duty.

NCAA reacts

However, the spokesperson for NCAA, Mr Sam Adurogboye, said he was yet to be briefed but noted that, “’If a case is filed against an individual or organisation, what is to be done is to put up appearance and defend oneself.”

The NCS had in March last year embarked on a review of import duties paid on private jets brought into the country since 2006.

Following the alleged discovery that several private jet owners, under the guise of Temporary Import Permit, had failed to pay the statutory import duty to the coffers of the government, the CG of Customs, Hameed Ali, set up a verification panel to review all TIPs and the relevant aircraft import documents of all private jets in the country.

At the end of the 60-day exercise, 57 private jets, which had licences for commercial charter operations, were cleared and issued with Aircraft Operators Certificate by the Customs.

However, 29 private jets, whose owners came for the verification, were found to be liable to pay the import duty.

The Customs also compiled a list of another 62 private jets whose owners failed to appear for the verification exercise but were found liable for import duty payment.

However, other private jet owners seeking to pay their import duty were given a 14-day ultimatum to clear the debts.

It is unclear the number of the jet owners that later paid the duty.

However, a list of 91 private jets whose owners had failed to present themselves for the import duty payment were presented to the NCAA, FAAN, and NAMA for the immediate grounding of their operations.

Some owners of the 91 jets reportedly wrote protest letters to the NCS, arguing why they could not pay the import duty because the jets were under lease payments.

The Customs, in its response to the letters, queried the rationale for bringing in the planes and allegedly fraudulently exporting them under questionable documentation processes in the past 10 years.

Unconfirmed officials had said the Ministry of Aviation directed the NCAA, FAAN and NAMA to suspend the grounding of the flight operations of the affected private jets.

Aircraft owners speak

Speaking on the development on Tuesday, the President, Association of Private Aircraft Owners Association, Mr Alex Nwuba, there is a need for the government to become transparent in the process of registering private jets.

He also said it might be difficult for the government to collect tax on private jets that are not fully imported into the country.

He said:-

“The idea is to ensure that people pay tax on imported aircraft. However, by keeping the registration of the jets offshore, how do you then pay tax on something that is foreign? The aircraft may have come and gone, but how do you pay tax on something that is not imported.

“The dilemma is if you register your private jet in Nigeria (5N), it is seen that it now have a lower value. The problem is that there is no transparency in our aircraft registration process. You cannot take the number of the aircraft, do a search and get the details. But if you do that for US-registered plane, you can get the details. But the summary is that you cannot collect duty on aircraft that is not imported.”

Nwuba, a pilot and former managing director of Associated Airlines, said the cost of duty might be one of the factors discouraging some private jet owners.

He said:-

“Of course, you are made to put up a bond when you are bringing in an aircraft on a temporary basis. However, while we are looking for revenue, it is not everywhere we can get it. Another issue is that, if you buy a private jet for $80m, you may need to pay a duty of over $10m; that may be high to some people.”

Some of the 91 private jets meant to be grounded belong to the senior pastors of some popular Pentecostal churches in the country, some Tier-1 banks with one of the banks owning two upmarket jets, the CEOs of some indigenous oil companies, and the chairmen of some Tier-1 banks.

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Governor Adeleke Reverses Self On Sack Of Civil Servants, Monarchs

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Ademola Adeleke

Adeleke said yesterday his administration has not sacked any worker and dethroned three monarchs.

Adeleke spoke against the earlier announced Executive Order 3, 4 and 5, which stated nullification of employment, appointment made by former Governor Adegboyega Oyetola from July 17, 2022 till his inauguration and vacation of the throne of three monarchs appointed by past administration.

The order states: “All employments in the service of Osun State Government made in any capacity into any capacity in all the ministries, departments, agencies, commissions, boards and parastatals after July 17, 2022 are hereby nullified.

“All appointments in the service of Osun State Government made in any capacity into any capacity in the ministries, departments, agencies, commissions, boards and parastatals after July 17, 2022 are hereby reversed.

“All appointments of traditional rulers made by Osun State Government after July 17, 2022 are hereby ordered to be reviewed to ensure there was strict compliance with due process of chieftaincy declarations and native law, custom and tradition relating to such chieftaincies. In the case of Ikirun, Iree and Igbajo, to avoid further breakdown of law and order, the appointments of Akinrun of Ikinrun, Aree of Ire and Owa of Igbajo are hereby put on hold pending review. Subsequently, the palaces of Akinrun of Ikirun, Aree of Iree and Owa of Igbajo should remain unoccupied, while security agencies are hereby ordered to take charge.”

However, the governor through his spokesperson, Olawale Rasheed, speaking yesterday on a private radio station, Rave FM, in Osogbo, during a talk show programme, ‘Frank Talk’, said Adeleke had not sacked any worker.

He said the appointment and employment made by the Oyetola administration would be reviewed to ensure legality and due process, stressing that nobody had been sacked, the executive order was misquoted.

All Progressives Congress (APC) in Osun State has described the setting up of review panels by Governor Adeleke as an afterthought designed to arrive at predetermined outcomes.

The party urged the governor to settle down to study the handover notes, so as to prevent the blunders he was committing.

In a statement signed by its Director of Operations, Sunday Akere, APC said: “We told you from day one that these people have nothing to offer. We can all see from their first action that they are even confused.

“They had told us long time ago that they were coming to sack. They came and announced it. Why set up a panel after taking a decision? What they are doing can be likened to doing ablution after observing prayers. Who does that?”

Governor Adeleke has ordered the dissolution of non-statutory boards.

Spokesperson Malam Olawale Rasheed said in a statement that the directive was conveyed to heads of ministries, departments and agencies by Mr. Teslim Igbalaye, the Secretary to the State Government.

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Secondary School Principal Beaten By Mob After Being Caught Pants Down With Student (Photo)

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A South African Secondary school deputy principal got an instant mob justice after being caught pants down with a student.

The deputy principal at Kgagatlou Secondary in Polokwane, Limpopo was beaten after being caught having sex with a student during school hours.

In a video circulating on Twitter, the principal was seen being beaten while tied to a pole.

It was also alleged that this is not the first time he had been caught carrying out pedophilic acts in schools. He was reportedly moved from another school before taking the deputy principal post at Kgagatlou Secondary School.

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