FIRS’ Action Capable Of Killing Airlines –Operators

Airline Operators and stakeholders in the aviation sector have lamented the recent blacklisting of four airlines by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) over delay in migrating to the tax platform designed by the agency, which they believe can kill the industry.

This is just as they alleged that the new tax platform information was poorly communicated to the airlines.

The FIRS had blacklisted Air Peace, AZMAN, Overland Airways and First Nation Airways and also advised the public not to purchase the tickets of these airlines.

Reacting to the development, Chairman of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema, contended that instead of going public asking Nigerians not to purchase the tickets of these airlines, FIRS should have done its home work by engaging the airlines through the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) before taking a decision that would affect the sales of tickets by the affected airlines.

He called on the FIRS to as a matter of urgency retract the public notice blacklisting these airlines, adding that it was capable of denting the image of the airlines both home and abroad.

Prior to Onyema’s reaction, the Chairman of Arik Air, Sir Joseph Arumemi-Ikhide had asked the FIRS to immediately tender unreserved apology to the affected airlines.

He said that what the tax agency had done could affect the operations of the airlines in the event that they want to secure loan from international finance organisations.

The Arik Air Chairman appealed to the Chairman of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) Capt. Nogie Meggison, who was also at the one day breakfast meeting organised by Aviation Round Table (ART) to take the matter up with FIRS.

FIRS action, he reiterated, was capable of affecting the operations of the airlines, calling on FIRS to retract the statement it had made.

“FIRS must retract the statement officially and AON must act on this issue immediately,” he said.

The Air Peace, who was furious over the matter, stated that the airline was not contacted on the issue before the tax agency blacklisted the four airlines, adding that this singular action by FIRS could affect the operations of these airlines that create jobs for Nigerians.

“I will give you an example of what government did recently that I didn’t like and I doubt if this present president will support what they did. They were just being overzealous. Recently, a government agency, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) sent out a public notice to Nigerian reading public that they should not buy the tickets of Air Peace, Overland, AZMAN and First Nation airlines, that these airlines did not subscribe to the Value Added Tax (VAT) Portal they created, which I am sure they created in conjunction with these tax consultants.”

He continued, “Meanwhile, nobody had contacted us before now. We have not even seen what the VAT Portal looked like but a government agency went to the press and gave out a public notice that could derail the operations of emerging airlines that have provided thousands of jobs for innocent Nigerians, which through the agency’s action, their fortunes could go down in future.”

He lamented that if anything happens to these airlines, the tax agency cannot offer employment, wondering why the agency was bent on frustrating the airlines out of business.

In his words, “The most annoying thing is that if it happens, the agency cannot afford to give these Nigerians jobs. And when you give job to one Nigerian, it’s like you are giving jobs to 10 Nigerians.

He contended that what the FIRS had done was not what a government agency in this new dispensation should be doing to domestic airline that are providing jobs for Nigerians.

Government, he stated, was supposed to package incentives for airline owners, who provide jobs, by creating conducive atmosphere for airlines businesses to thrive.

 According to him, “They should create enabling environment for those who provide jobs and not the other way round. I am telling you that in America, if you are able to create jobs for 50 people, the government gives you every support you need because you are helping them to curb the state of insecurity and you are helping people to live a good life.”

Continuing Onyema said, “Somebody should call the tax agency to order. If not for anything they should rather give tax rebate. That is how it is done, so that we can create more jobs.  They should be looking at the number of Nigerians we have employed. In the real sense, we have been providing jobs on behalf of the government.

He called on government agencies to behave responsibly in the course of carrying out their duties, adding that what FIRS had done to domestic airlines was not the best way to address that issue. “That is not how to do things. I am really piqued at what the tax agency did by calling on the public not to patronize some airlines over alleged failure to migrate into a tax collection platform. That to me is the height of wickedness in killing private investment.

The airline chief said the challenges are not limited to high cost of operations and an unfriendly investment environment and the re-introduction of import duties on aircraft spares as well as absence of tax holidays for fledging carriers.

The airline operator noted that rather than encourage indigenous airline investors, some agencies of government were busy erecting obstacles on their way thereby frustrating efforts to develop the air transport sector.


Source : Independent

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