In the ongoing saga that is Air Nigeria (VK) - having first been grounded by a strike, then a public slinging match with an ex manager over air safety and financial indebtedness, then by an investigation into its airworthiness - has now had its Managing Director, Kinfe Kahssay, arrested over failure by the airline to remit USD$31.4million (NgN4,87billion) in taxes to the Federal Internal Revenue Services (FIRS), Nigeria's tax man.
An FIRS statement read:
"The arrest is aimed at recovering arrears of taxes accruing to government from Withholding Tax (WHT) and Value Added Tax (VAT). The enforcement is part of a bigger move to recover the N170. I Billion (N170'132'089'411.46) outstanding taxes owed to government by public and private organisations as well as ensure that all taxpayers are captured in the tax net."
Armed police raided Air Nigeria's offices on Monday morning and took Kahssay away for interrogation, where, it is alleged he "agreed that Air Nigeria had tax liabilities but pleaded for more time to clear the bills."
However, Air Nigeria in a press release on its website moved to distance itself from the debacle claiming that the taxes in question, in actuality, dated back to the day's of Richard Branson's Virgin Nigeria Airlines and were still to be settled with the Nigerian Government and questioned as to why the FIRS had "spent the past 8 years doing nothing".
"The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) stormed Air Nigeria office on Monday, 18 June 2012, with mobile policemen armed with guns to demand for past taxes allegedly owed during the period when Mr. Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic was running Virgin Nigeria, now Air Nigeria. These taxes have been in dispute and needed to be reconciled and agreed upon."
The airline then goes on to allege that the last 2 incidents (see the opening paragraph) have been part of a greater conspiracy to see the airline fail.
Read More Here [Air Nigeria Press Release]"We suspect that one other line of action will be coming in the coming week to further attempt to damage us in the public eye; but we assure the instigator of such uncivilized approach that Air Nigeria will not compromise its corporate values and development strategy. "
So, if Air Nigeria's prophecies are true, what will happen next? Stay tuned for another thrilling episode...