Oshiomhole briefs Jonathan on Benin airport closure, justifies action

By The Citizen

The Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole has blamed the General Manager of FAAN for the ugly development in Benin Airport that led to the closure of the airport by the state authorities over non-remittance of tax, adding that the GM twisted the whole issue to confuse the general public.

Oshiomhole made this know at the presidential villa when he came to brief President Goodluck Jonathan on the incident that led to the closure of the Benin Airport on Tuesday, by the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).

He stated that the state governor knowing the importance of the airport to the economy will never go to the extent of closing the airport and disrupt the plans of users.

The Edo Governor who said with the visit of MD of FAAN and the apologises the matter has been led to rest, cautioned that institutions of federal and state government must work together for the interest of the people at heart, adding that is was all about partnership not competition.

On whether the matter has been resolved, Oshiomhole said, “Well, I just flew from Benin, I landed here and it’s a proof that the airport is working. Actually, it was one of those unfortunate incidents and I have briefed Mr. President. We only tried to enforce the tax law. I know its a federal law, its not tenament rate contrary to what the GM of FAAN said. It’s about pay as you earn. Those who work for FAAN and those who work for National Airspace Management Authority (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 monies within 30 days.

“But the money in question was deducted as far back as 2010/2011 and we are now in  2013. We made all the revenue board to get FAAN management to remit the money  and they refused. They only lawful thing that we had to do in a democracy was to approach the court and show the relevant section 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, it’s criminal.

“Tax is not a voluntary contribution by members of an association. It’s a compulsory levy and if you default in countries where the rule of law is strong you are a candidate for prison. It’s non negotiable. The revenue board having obtained the court order went to serve on the FAAN manager office which is about 400 meters 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. So, he by himself decided to lock all the gates to the airport to make it inaccessible and the plane that landed,  he decided to prevent the plane from boarding passengers and compelled the plane to fly back to Lagos empty all to  draw public attention in what appears to be inconveniences to him.

“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 and it’s more so when you recognize that there is third party which is the traveling public who have businesses.

“I mean the airport services the economy not only of Edo state but also of the south south. A lot of people come through Benin to Warri, to Asaba. So, its unthinkable that the Edo state government will do a thing like that. In fact yesterday (Wednesday) I told the FAAN MD when he came to more or less apologize for what happened that I have used Edo state tax payers money to buy diesel to ensure that the FAAN operations were not disrupted even though its a federal institution because for me this thing about federal and state, there is one common denominator and that is the welfare and well being of Edo people. That is what the villa is doing and whatever it does, it is measured in terms of how it impacts on the welfare of Nigerians. In my own case is  limited to the welfare and well being of Edo state. We are complementing each other’s  efforts. We are not competing and we are not antagonistic.

“But when it comes to tax law, I made up my mind that its about law, I pay my tax. You pay your tax not because you want to. I will rather remove it from  your pay before giving you the balance. Now the issue is that that pay he has taken he diverts it and in terms of government businesses, you can ask the question who is keeping the money. So it is unfortunate that it led to locking the airport and that was not part of it at all. But it has all been ironed out, we met with FAAN yesterday (Wednesday), we all smiled and agreed that our commitment to serve our country remain strong. They as managers of the airspace, we as state authorities all working to improve the quality of life of Nigerians. For me the issue is settled and I have explained it to the President that it was one of those unfortunate things and It is completely resolved”.