The Rivers State government has petitioned the Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeal’s decision in the Value Added Tax (VAT) dispute between the state and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
Documents obtained by reporters on Tuesday revealed that a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Emmanuel Ukala, and three other senior lawyers have filed an appeal notice at the Supreme Court.
As the appellant, the Rivers State Attorney-General is joined by the FIRS and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) in the list of respondent organizations.
The state government complained to the Supreme Court on September 13 about its dissatisfaction with the appellate court’s decision, which was handed down on Friday of last week, and directed all parties to maintain the status quo.
It explained that the ruling of the appellate court implied that the parties were restored to their positions before the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt granted the Rivers State government the right to collect VAT instead of the FIRS on August 9.
Rivers State argued, among other things, that the appeal court erred in law by relying on Section 6(6) of the Constitution and its inherent jurisdiction to base its decision to issue an order to maintain the status quo in the case pending the outcome of an appeal filed by FIRS.
The appellate court allegedly erred by relying on its inherent jurisdiction to issue the order instead of realizing that its inherent jurisdiction cannot be used to override statutory provisions.
As a result, the state sought relief from the Supreme Court, asking it to allow the appeal, set aside the appeal court’s decision that they had objected to, and dismiss the FIRS’ oral application for interim injection.
A new Court of Appeal panel will hear and decide the substantive appeal by the FIRS and all other processes, as well.
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike signed the Value Added Tax Law, 2021 after it was upheld in court by Justice Stephen Pam of the Federal High Court.
The bill, along with four others, was approved by the Rivers State House of Assembly and signed into law by the governor.
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Even so, the FIRS filed a motion on notice to apply for a stay of execution on Justice Pam’s earlier judgment, apparently upset by the development.
The federal agency failed to file a request to set aside a tax law recently enacted by the Rivers State House of Assembly, the court ruled.
As a result, Justice Pam ruled that the state’s VAT law was valid and in effect, allowing Governor Wike to direct the state’s revenue agency to fully implement the VAT law.
The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) went to the Court of Appeal in Abuja later on with a civil motion asking for a stay of execution of an earlier judgment granted by Rivers state court pending a decision in this case.
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A three-member panel of the appellate court, led by Justice Haruna Tsammani, then ordered all parties to maintain the status quo and refrain from taking any action that would give effect to the judgment delivered by Justice Pam, pending the hearing and determination of the instant suit.