The privately-owned ‘Air Nigeria’ airline Tuesday condemned what it called the invasion of its offices by armed police on the orders of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), over past taxes allegedly owed by the airline.
In a statement made available to PANA here, the airline said it is not indebted to the government on current taxes since it acquired the former Virgin Nigeria.
It said the back taxes were owed when Mr. Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic was running Virgin Nigeria, and that even then the taxes have been in dispute and needed to be reconciled and agreed upon.
”The FIRS is however not patient with such reconciliations but resorted to a military approach in a civilian era,” Air Nigeria said, while slamming the FIRS action as ”uncivilized and condemnable”.
The local media reported Tuesday that the airline’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Kinfe Kahssay, was arrested by the FIRS during the Monday raid of the airline’s offices over the unpaid taxes, which was put at 4.8 billion naira, but the airline did not confirm this (US$1=155 naira)
The FIRS had explained in a statement that the arrest ”is aimed at recovering arrears of taxes accruing to government from Withholding Tax (WHT) and Value Added Tax (VAT)”.
The atorming of the airline’s offices was the latest crisis facing it, after it was grounded last week for several days by the regulatory Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for safety checks, following a strike by its pilots and engineers.
The airline, which flies domestic, regional and international routes, has also been accused by a former top executive of being heavily indebted and unable to adequately maintain its airlines.
In its statement Tuesday, the airline acknowledged the problems, saying: ”It should be noted that since the commencement of international operations on the Lagos – London route, Air Nigeria has become the object of an orchestrated attacks that show clearly that this is a case of the voice of Jacob and the hand of Esau.
”In following the external influence, local staff of the airline went on strike in May for May salary which the management has resolved amicably. As the airline was coming out of that, the news of it being grounded by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) infiltrated town. Again, as the airline was coming out of this with a clean bill of health, barely two days after, the airline is yet invaded in a military manner.”