Adams Oshiomohole of Edo state yesterday condemned the assault of agents of the state Board of Internal Revenue by the Benin Manager of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Mr Ayodele Sunday during the enforcement of a court order sealing the airport for default in the payments of N15 million PAYE tax.
The Governor also frowned at the arrest of the Chairman of the Board of Internal Revenue, Chief Oseni Elamah, on the orders of the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Abubakar, saying the Police ought to protect the man trying to enforce the law and not the lawbreaker. He said the due process of law will be applied to pursue the matter and called for the release of Chief Elamah.
According to the governor, “the Edo state government did not seal up the airport, the revenue board staff went there peacefully to do their job. The authority of the revenue board went to serve a ‘Distraining Order’ on the administrative office of FAAN, it was done in a way to ensure that it does not affect the operations of the airport knowing that the airport is a public place and as much as we want to collect taxes due to government, we don’t want to inflict pains on travellers who are not a party to the issue of tax evasion.
“However when the Manager’s office was sealed up, he in turn, in order to attract national attention or dramatize the issue, decided on his own to shut down the airport. As you know his office is several hundred meters outside the airport and the sealing up of his office will not in any way affect the airport. So just to put it on record, the Edo state government did not shut down the airport.
“We believe it was possible to get the FAAN to pay their obligation without causing untold hardship to air travelers. So the closure of the airport has been unilaterally closed down by the Airport Manager who wanted to use it to shield himself from the charges against him, namely, deducting PAYE from employees of FAAN and not paying to the Edo state government in accordance with the law.
“Everybody is under the law; no one is above the law. The only thing that surprised me this morning is that the airport Manager assaulted members of the revenue board. I have been a bit embarrassed that the Police Commissioner has arrested the Revenue Board chairman and I have asked him to release him he said his arrest was on the orders of the IGP.
“I have thought that when laws are violated that it is those who violated the law that should be arrested by the police not those who seek to enforce the law. I do not believe that the action of the police is appropriate and I feel we all must ensure that the rule of law be followed. I believe that the revenue board acted properly by going to court to obtain a court order and to serve it in a way that it will cause no inconvenience to members of the public. I believe the matter is under control, I have spoken to the authorities in Abuja and I believe the matter will be handled amicably” he stated.