Edo State acted within its laws when it asked Benin Airport officials to remit their tax, thus leading to the closure of the airport, Adams Oshiomhole, the state governor, said on Thursday.
Mr. Oshiomhole said this at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, after a meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan.
The governor told journalists after the meeting that he had come to brief the president on the issues that led to the closure of the airport as well as condole with the first lady over the death of her mother.
He explained that the issue was about the Pay As You Earn tax and not tenement rate as rumoured, adding that the state government was only trying to enforce a federal law.
“It was one of those unfortunate incidents and I have just briefed the President. We only try to enforce tax law, I know it is a Federal law; it is not tenement rate contrary to what the General Manager of FAAN was saying, it is about Pay As You Earn.
“Those who work for Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and those who work for National Airspace Management Authorities (NAMA) who live in Edo State, under the law, their taxes are deducted from source by the authorities and they are obliged in law to remit such money within 30 days but the money in question as far back as 2010, 2011 and we are now in 2014 and we have made all the efforts through the revenue board to get FAAN management to remit the money and they refused,” the governor said.
Mr. Oshiomhole added that the state government had to take the matter to court when the airport authorities were not willing to comply with the law.
“The only lawful thing we have to do in a democracy was to approach the court and show the relevant sections of the law which obliges FAAN and NAMA to remit Pay As You Earn and point out the fact that when you don’t do that.
“Tax is not a voluntary contribution by members of an association, it is a compulsory levy and if you default in countries where the rule of law is strong, you are a candidate for prison, it is not negotiable.
“So the revenue board, having obtained the court order to restrain FAAN went to serve it on the FAAN manager’s office, which is about 400 metres away from the airport but the manager felt that the only way he can draw public attention recognizing the essential nature of the airport is to shut down the airport,” he said.
Mr. Oshiomhole said it was the FAAN manager that locked all the gates to the airport to make it inaccessible. He claimed the manager also refused the planes that landed to carry any passengers and had compelled the planes to fly back to Lagos empty to secure public sympathy against the state government.
“He now extended it and that led to the drama that you saw. I have just explained it to the President that in relation to state Government and federal government there are rules of engagement ad it’s more so when you recognize that there is third party which is the travelling public who have businesses,” the governor added.