Thursday, August 1, 2013

■ NIGERIA: Benin Airport temporarily shut down by IRS over tax evasion allegations.

Nigeria's Inland Revenue Services (IRS) acting on behalf of the Edo State Government, temporarily closed Benin Airport on Monday over allegations of tax evasion by airport workers. The move resulted in numerous flights to both Abuja and Lagos being cancelled.

Benin Airport Terminal
Benin Airport Terminal (TelegraphNG)
Both AeroContractors (AJ) and Arik Air (W3) cancelled all flights to the airport together with charter operators until 15h00L when the airport was reopened and the Arik Air flight that was inadvertently grounded was allowed to fly back to Lagos with passengers.

In its raid on Monday, July 29, the IRS claimed that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had defaulted on USD93'400(NGN15million) in Pay As You Earn (PAYE) contributions back dated to 2011, a move FAAN spokesman, Mr Yakubu Dati, disputed claiming the laws founding the organization had exempted it from paying taxes and tenement rates.
We learnt early this morning that some people belonging to the Edo State Inland Revenue Service shut the Benin Airport over what our staff described as non-payment of taxes. This is coming to us as a rude shock, because they could have explored all lines of dialogue, instead of just taking the laws into their hands.To close Benin Airport is not good for the security and safety of the airport environment, “ he said.
Dati explained that the laws setting up FAAN exempted it from paying taxes and tenement rates.

However, on July 30, the Managing Director of FAAN, Mr. George Uriesi, led a team composed of other management staff to the Office of the Governor of Edo State, Mr Adams Oshiomohole, in Benin City to tender an apology.
We deeply regret the events of yesterday and we will like to find out how we can avoid a situation like this arising in the future, because it is neither in the interest of FAAN nor in the interest of Edo State Government for the Airport to be closed down, because there was a lot of hardship and serious economic consequences as a result of the shutdown and there is need to settle this matter.

I want to assure Your Excellency that FAAN is a good corporate citizen. I am convinced that there was a misunderstanding and I want to get to the bottom of this misunderstanding so that it does not happen again, " Mr Uriesi said.
In his response, Governor Oshiomhole noted that tax law was a federal law which the state government was only trying to implement and insisted that anybody who works and lives in Edo State must pay tax as a contribution to the development of the State, adding that to avoid a re-occurrence of the incident, FAAN must comply with the law.