Air Nigeria Owner Suspends Carrier’s Operations for 12 Months

Air Nigeria has suspended its operations for as long as 12 months due to the “disloyalty” of some staff and a weak business environment, said Jimoh Ibrahim, the airline’s chairman.

The airline will recommence operations as soon as 50 of its best staff agree on how to “clean up” the company, Ibrahim said by phone today from Lagos, the commercial capital.

Air Nigeria has only been operating international flights since June, after authorities suspended its domestic flights to allow for a financial audit, Joe Obi, a spokesman for the Aviation Ministry in Abuja, the capital, said today by phone. The airline was also being investigated by the Federal Inland Revenue Service for taxes owed.

The agency said in June that it arrested Kinfe Kayssay, Air Nigeria’s managing director, over a 4.9 billion naira ($30 million) tax bill. It said the company hadn’t filed annual tax returns for 2011. Air Nigeria said the tax collector was demanding payments dating back to the time when the company was partly owned by Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., before Ibrahim acquired it in April 2010.

Yesterday, the Aviation Ministry allowed Dana Airlines Ltd. to resume operations. The carrier had been suspended when one of its planes crashed during the approach to Lagos airport on June 3, killing all 153 people on board.

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