Abuja - Gov. Adams Oshiomhole of Edo on Thursday in Abuja explained to President Goodluck Jonathan why the Benin Airport was shut by the State Government.
Oshiomhole gave the explanation in an interview with State House correspondents after a closed-door meeting with at the Presidential Villa.
He said he was in the villa to brief the president on the circumstances that led to the disruption of activities at the Benin Airport that left many travellers stranded.
He noted that the State Government acted in line with the law by demanding the remittance of taxes from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the governor also took the opportunity to condole with Jonathan and the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, on the loss of her mother.
The governor noted that although the issue had been resolved, the closure was not about tenement rent but about a federal law of Pay-as-you earn, which the State Government tried to enforce.
"It was one of those unfortunate incidents and I have just briefed the president.
"We only tried to enforce the tax law which I know is a federal law. It is not tenement rent, contrary to what the general manager of FAAN was saying. It is about pay-as-you earn.
"Those who work for FAAN and those who work for the National Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) who live in Edo State under the law, their taxes are deducted from source by the authorities.
"They are obliged by law to remit such monies within 30 days but the money in question had never been remitted as far back as 2010, 2011 and now 2013.
"We have made all the efforts through the revenue board to get FAAN's management to remit the money but they refused.’’
"The only lawful thing we have to do in a democracy is 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, it is criminal.
"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.’’
Oshiomhole explained further that the state’s revenue board, having obtained a restraining order from a competent court, went to serve it on the manager of FAAN in the office, which he said, was about 400 metres away from the airport.
"The manager felt that the only way he could draw public attention recognising the essential nature of the airport, was to shut down the airport.
"He, by himself, decided to lock all the gates to the airport to make it inaccessible.
"He decided to prevent the plane from boarding passengers and compelled planes 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 everything to the president, that in relation to State Government and Federal Government there are rules of engagement.
"It is more so when you recognise that there is third party which is the travelling public who have businesses to take care of.’’
Speaking on the registration of the All Progressive Congress, Oshiomhole said the registration would further deepen democracy.
The governor commended INEC for the development, saying the action showed that the commission was truly independent from executive interference.
"It is all about battle of ideas, battle of programmes and the welfare of our people.
"If you have two viable parties that are capable of engaging, then the people will have the basis for genuine and meaningful choice," he said.