Journalism in the service of society

RIVERS: Wike files appeal at Supreme Court to challenge VAT ruling

THE VAT dispute between the River State government and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) seems far from over as the state has approached the Supreme Court to challenge the recent ruling of the Court of Appeal on the subject matter.

According to documents obtained by reporters yesterday, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Emmanuel Ukala, alongside three other senior lawyers filed a notice of appeal at the apex court.

The Attorney-General of Rivers State is the appellant while the FIRS and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) are joined as respondents.

In the 10 grounds of appeal dated September 13, the state government had informed the Supreme Court that it was dissatisfied with the decision of the appellate court delivered on Friday last week in which all parties were directed to maintain status quo.

It explained that the implication of the ruling of the appellate court was that parties were restored to their positions before a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt granted the Rivers State government the right to collect VAT, instead of the FIRS on August 9.

In one of the grounds of appeal, Rivers State alleged that the appeal court erred in law when it relied on the provisions of Section 6(6) of the Constitution and its inherent jurisdiction to found its decision to make an order to maintain status quo in the matter, pending the determination of an appeal filed by FIRS.

According to it, the appellate court in relying on its inherent jurisdiction to make the order failed to appreciate that its inherent jurisdiction cannot be applied in contravention of statutory provisions.

The state government, therefore, sought relief of the Supreme Court to allow the appeal, set aside the decision of the appeal court which they complained about, and dismiss the oral application for interim injection made by the FIRS.

It also asked the apex court to order that the substantive appeal by the FIRS and all other processes, be heard and determined by a new panel of the Court of Appeal.

Following the judgement delivered by Justice Stephen Pam of the Federal High Court, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, assented to the Valued Added Tax Law, 2021.

The bill had been passed by lawmakers in the Rivers State House of Assembly, along with four others that were also assented to by the governor.

But the FIRS, which was apparently displeased with the development, filed a motion on notice to apply for a stay of execution on the earlier judgement delivered by Justice Pam.

The court, in its ruling, refused the application, saying the federal agency failed to file an application to set aside the tax law recently enacted by the Rivers State House of Assembly.

Justice Pam, therefore, stated that the state law on VAT was valid and subsisting, paving the way for Governor Wike to direct the state’s revenue agency to fully implement the VAT law.

The FIRS later approached the Court of Appeal in Abuja with a civil motion seeking a stay of the execution of the judgement earlier granted by the court in Rivers pending the determination of the case.

A three-man panel of the appellate court, led by Justice Haruna Tsammani, then directed all parties to maintain the status quo and refrain from taking action that would give effect to the judgement delivered by Justice Pam, pending the hearing and determination of the instant suit.

The VAT dispute between both parties has generated mixed reaction from other state governments, social groups, and former political office holders.

The Kogi State government has described its Lagos and River counterparts as “selfish” for insisting on collection of VAT. Meanwhile, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has said he fully supports Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Governor Nyesom Wike’s stance on the mater.

Former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, had supported the two governors, saying the debate on fiscal federalism will trigger a much-needed development across the country since states will be able to maximize their potentials regarding revenue generation.

The Gombe State Government has however appealed to its Lagos and Rivers counterparts over their decision on the collection of Value Added Tax, asking them to be “their brothers keepers”.

Comments are closed.

Naija Times