The Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has declared that it is the Rivers State Government, not the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS), should collect Valued Added Tax (VAT) and Personal Income Tax (PIT) in the state.
The court, presided over by Justice Stephen Dalyop Pam, also issued an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Attorney General of the Federation, both first and second defendants in the suit, from collecting, demanding, threatening and intimidating residents of Rivers State to pay to FIRS, PIT and VAT.
Pam made the assertion while delivering judgement in Suit No. FHC/PH/CS/149/2020, filed by the Attorney General for Rivers State (plaintiff), against the Federal Inland Revenue Service (first defendant) and the Attorney General of the Federation (second defendant).
The court, which granted all the 11 reliefs sought by the Rivers State Government, stated that there was no constitutional basis for the FIRS to demand for and collect VAT, Withholding Tax (WHT), Education Tax and Technology Levy in Rivers State or any other state of the federation, being that the constitutional powers and competence of the Federal Government was limited to taxation of incomes, profits and capital gains, which do not include VAT or any other species of sales, or levy other than those specifically mentioned in Items 58 and 59 of the Exclusive Legislative List of the Constitution.
The judge dismissed the preliminary objections filed by the defendants that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the suit and that the case should be transferred to Court of Appeal for interpretation.
Pam, who also dismissed objection raised by the defendants that the National Assembly ought to have been made a party in the suit, declared that the issues of taxes raised by the state government were issues of law that the court was constitutionally empowered to entertain.
He declared that after a diligent review of the issues raised by bothplaintiff and the defendants, the plaintiff had proven beyond doubt that it was entitled to all the 11 reliefs sought in the suit.
The court agreed with the Rivers State Government that it was the state and not FIRS that was constitutionally entitled to impose taxes enforceable or collectable in its territory of the nature of consumption or sales tax, VAT, education and other taxes or levies, other than the taxes and duties specifically reserved for the Federal Government by Items 58 and 59 of Part 1 of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
Also, the court declared that the defendants were not constitutionally entitled to charge or impose levies, charges or rates (under any guise or by whatever name called) on the residents of Rivers State, and indeed, any state of the federation.
Among the reliefs sought by the Rivers State Government, was a declaration that the constitutional power of the Federal Government to impose taxes and duties was only limited to the items listed in Items 58 and 59 of Part 1 of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The Rivers State Government had also urged the court to declare that, by virtue of the provisions of Items 7 and 8 of the Part II (Concurrent Legislative List) of the Second Schedule of the Constitution, the power of the Federal Government to delegate the collection of taxes can only be exercised by the state government or other authority of the state, and no other person.
The state government had further asked the court to declare that all statutory provisions made or purportedly made in the exercise of the legislative powers of the Federal Government, which contains provisions which are inconsistent with or in excess of the powers to impose tax and duties, as prescribed by Items 58 and 59 of the Part I of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, or inconsistent with the power to delegate the duty of collection of taxes, as contained in Items 7 and 8 of Part II of the Second Schedule of the Constitution, were unconstitutional, null and void.
Lead counsel for the Rivers State Government, Donald Chika Denwigwe (SAN), who spoke to journalists after the court session, explained that the case was all about the interpretation of the Constitution as regards the authority of the government at the state and federal levels to collect certain revenues, particularly, VAT.
“So, during the determination of the matter, some issues of law were thrown up like, whether or not the case should be referred to the Court of Appeal for the determination of some issues.
“The court noted that the application is like asking the Federal High Court to transfer the entire case to the Court of Appeal. In which case, if the court so decides, there will be nothing left to refer back to the Federal High Court as required by the Constitution.”
According to Denwigwe, the court refused that prayer, and decided that the case was in its proper place before the Federal High Court, and was, therefore, competent to determine it.
Speaking on the implications of the judgement, Denwigwe said it was now, unlawful for such taxes as VAT in Rivers State to be collected by any agency of the Federal Government.
“In a summary, it is a determination that it is wrong for the Federal Government to be collecting taxes which are constitutionally reserved for the state governments to collect. The implication of the judgement is that the government (federal and state) as an authority under the constitution,should be advised by the judgement that it is the duty of all government authorities to comply with and obey the law so long as the court has interpreted it and said what that law is.
“So, in other words, the issue of Value Added Tax (VAT) in the territory of Rivers State and Personal Income Tax should be reserved for the government of Rivers State.”
Counsel to FIRS, O.C. Eyibo said he will study the judgment and advise his client.
Electoral Bill: PDP Govs Urge NASS To Override Buhari’s Veto
At their meeting in Port Harcourt, last Monday, under the aegis of PDP Governors Forum, with a nine-point communique, the governors noted the urgency required to conclude deliberations on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
The meeting was convened to once again review the various challenges confronting the federating states, the state of the nation and the PDP.
Reading the communique to journalists after the meeting, thePDP Governors’ Forum Chairman, and Governor of Sokoto State, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal said the other option open to the National Assembly was to delete areas of concern in the bill.
“The meeting advised that the option of sustaining Mr President’s veto would lead to a quicker resolution, and would deny Mr President the opportunity to, once again, truncate a reformed electoral jurisprudence for Nigeria. An early concluded Electoral Act is vital for credible elections.”
The PDP governors also decried the continued deterioration of the country’s economy under the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government.
Nigerians, the communique said, have become numb and accustomed to bad economic news as exemplified by the inconsistent and differential exchange rate regime, high interest rates, unsustainable unemployment figures and borrowing spree some of which have not been applied to important projects and other bad economic indicators.
“In particular, it is clear that the APC government is a massive failure when compared with the records of PDP in government. The PDP handed over a $550billion economy (the largest in Africa), but under APC, Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world.
“In 2015, under PDP, the exchange rate was N198 per Dollar, it is now under APC almost N500 to a Dollar.In 2015, unemployment rate was 7.3% under PDP, it is now 33%, one of the highest in the world under APC.In 2015, the pump price of petroleum was N87 per litre, it is now N165 per litre and climbing under APC.
“Debt servicing now under APC takes over 98% of the federal budget. The tales of woe is endless.”
The PDP governors also noted that the management of the oil and gas resources and the administration of Federation Account remittances have remained opaque, confusing and non – transparent.
“In addition, the transition to NNPC Ltd under the Petroleum Industry Act has not been properly streamlined to ensure that the interests of all the tiers of government are protected, consistent with the 1999 Constitution.”
Also, the PDP governors lamented the protracted insecurity situation in the country, the persistent and ceaseless flow of Nigerians’ blood on a daily basis in many parts of Nigeria.
They noted the near collapse of the security situation in Nigeria with the APC administration lost on any enduring strategy to deploy in confronting the terrorists, kidnappers, bandits and other criminals.
“The meeting expressed regrets that Mr President is unwilling, from his recent comments discountenancing the proposals for state policing, to participate in reviewing the structural problems of tackling insecurity in Nigeria.
“(The meeting) urges Mr President to reconsider his position and consider decentralisation and restructuring of the security architecture as the most viable solution, together with proper arming, funding and training requirements for security agencies.”
The meeting also urged eligible Nigerians of all walks of life, particularly the youths, to register en-masse with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
This, the meeting, resolved, will enable the registered Nigerians to exercise their franchise in the 2023 general election.
“The next election is a very consequential election that should be used to end the dominance of very youth unfriendly APC government; a government that had the arrogance to deny Nigerian youths of the use of Twitter, a business friendly tool for the young, for over a year. The youths should empower themselves to determine who leads them.”
The PDP governors congratulated the Dr. Iyorchia Ayu-led National Executive Committee, and commended them for hitting the ground running with respect to repositioning the PDP into a credible vehicle for rescuing and rebuilding Nigeria which has been battered by bad economy, insecurity, unemployment and other social ills by the incompetent and inept APC administration.
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, who hosted the meeting, was commended by forum for the great leadership performance he has entrenched in Rivers State.
The governors, who attended the meeting were, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto); Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom); Senator Douye Diri (Bayelsa); Samuel Ortom (Benue); Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta); Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu); Oluseyi Makinde (Oyo); Ahmadu Fintiri (Adamawa); Darius Ishaku (Taraba); and Bala Mohammed (Bauchi).
2023: We Won’t Release Poll Timetable Until Electoral Bill Is Signed Into Law -INEC
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu disclosed this, yesterday, in Abuja during the commission’s first quarterly consultative meeting with political parties.
He said, “On the Electoral Amendment Bill currently before the National Assembly, the Commission is encouraged by the Senate President’s assurance to give priority attention to the bill when the National Assembly reconvenes from its recess today, and the commitment by the President to assent to the bill as soon as the issue of mode of primaries by political parties is resolved. We look forward to a speedy passage of the bill, which is crucial to our preparations for future elections.
“As soon as it is signed into law, the commission will quickly release the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Election based on the new law”.
Noting that 2022 is going to be a very busy year for the commission and the political parties, Yakubu reminded them that the 2023 general election was just 396 days away.
He said all the critical preparations must be concluded this year, explaining that the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), which commenced in June, last year, has entered the third quarter.
“As of yesterday, Monday, 17th January, 2022, a total of 8,260,076 eligible Nigerians commenced the online pre-registration, completed the registration physically or applied for transfer to new voting locations, replacement of their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) or updated their voter information records as required by law.
“At the moment, the Commission is undertaking the most comprehensive clean-up of the data to ensure that only eligible citizens are added to the voters’ register for the 2023 general election and will share our findings with Nigerians and the actual dates for the collection of the PVCs nationwide will be announced very soon”, Yakubu stated.
According to him, the commission has also decided that the suspended Ekiti East I State Constituency bye-election would be combined with the State Governorship election holding on June 18, 2022.
He said the date for the Shinkafi State Constituency bye-election in Zamfara State would be announced after a thorough review of the security situation in the area, while the commission awaits the declaration of vacancy by the Kaduna State House of Assembly in respect of Giwa West State Constituency.
“Turning to the major end-of-tenure and off-cycle elections, party primaries for the Ekiti State Governorship election are scheduled for 4th – 29th January, 2022. For the Osun State Governorship election, primaries will hold from 16th February to 12th March, 2022.
“In the case of Ekiti State, all the 18 political parties have served the mandatory notices for the primaries. Let me seize this opportunity to draw the attention of parties to the necessity for transparent and rancour-free primaries. Parties should also respect their chosen dates for the primaries based on the commission’s Timetable and Schedule of Activities.
“Already, many parties have rescheduled their primaries several times. While the commission has earmarked a period of three weeks and 4 days (i.e. 25 days) for the conduct of the Ekiti State Governorship primaries, virtually all political parties have decided to hold their primaries in the last 4 days i.e. 26th – 29th January, 2022. In fact, seven political parties have chosen the last day for their primaries.
“Similarly, no party has so far submitted its list of aspirants, the composition of its electoral panel, or the register of members or list of delegates depending on the chosen mode for electing its candidates.
“As of yesterday, only one party has indicated the venue for its primaries. I urge you all to do so immediately to enable us to work out the detailed plans for monitoring the primaries. All primaries for electing candidates must take place in the constituency where election will hold as required by law. In the cases of Ekiti and Osun State Governorship elections, any primaries conducted outside the two States will not be monitored by the commission and their outcomes will not be accepted. This also applies to primaries for bye-elections conducted outside the constituencies”, he added.
On the Federal Capital Territory FCT Area Council election, Yakubu gave insights into the distribution of voters to Polling Units in the territory, particularly the fact that 593 out of 2,822 or 21% of the total do not have voters.
“This is because voters failed to take advantage of the expansion of access to transfer to these new Polling Units. The detailed distribution of voters to Polling Units in the FCT is among the documents in your folders for this meeting”, he stated.
Responding on behalf of the political parties, Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC), Engr. Yabagi Sani said the parties are anticipating more superlative performance by INEC in the remaining off-season elections, beginning with the council elections in the Federal Capital Territory and later on, the gubernatorial elections in Osun and Ekiti states.
He said the most serious and potent impediment to the successful conduct of the 2023 general elections, is the lingering debacle between the Executive and the Legislature on the fate of the 2021 Electoral (Amendment) Bill.
“While time is dangerously running out for the resolution of the disputes between the two arms, the IPAC is of the position that the controversy may have been contrived in the first instance, purely and clearly in the pursuits of narrow and self-centred political ambitions of some of the gladiators.
“We are therefore, using this occasion to once again make our strident call for the immediate resolution of the unnecessary impasse over the Electoral Amendment Bill in the superior and overriding national interest. The IPAC has persistently suggested at various forums that, the first rational step in the circumstance is for the two apex legislative houses to immediately expunge from the bill, the provisions that make it mandatory for political parties to use direct primary elections in the selection of their flag bearers in general election.
“Going forward, we have also called on the President to thereafter, assent to the Bill without delay. Our concern in the IPAC is that failure to reach a compromise in the short run may invariably translate into the death of the other very crucial provisions, such as the provisions on the electronic transmission of election results”, he stated.
TUC Accuses FG Of Wasting N9.5bn On Refineries’ Turnaround Maintenance
The National President, TUC, Comrade Quadri Olaleye, made the accusation in a goodwill message at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and inauguration of newly elected National Executive Committee of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) in Abuja.
According to him, corruption and inefficiency in the oil and gas sector were responsible for the mess the nation was facing with 95per cent of petroleum products still imported.
He said: “Even with Nigeria’s status of being one of the largest oil producing countries, the energy crises that have befallen us as a nation are well known and this is solely due to the incompetence and corruption of the government.
“The fuel subsidy and the proposed hike in fuel price is a rather prominent and recurring one. Nigeria is the only OPEC member country that imports more than 90 to 95% of refined petroleum products for consumption.
“Nigeria has a total of five refineries in the country of which four are owned and managed by the government, and one by NDPR.
“It might interest you to know that none of the government owned refineries is functioning, yet in the past 10 years alone, the government has wasted about $9.5billion for turnaround maintenance of the moribund refineries.
“Please note that TUC is not against the removal of the fuel subsidy if it will yield positive results. Rather, we are inquisitive as to what the government has to offer following the removal. How can we trust the government and be certain that they will actually remove it this time around, because in the past, they have claimed to remove the so-called ‘subsidy’, so how can what has been removed be removed again? Will there be construction and utilization of modular refineries as the government has previously promised and failed to deliver?
“Will there be rehabilitation of existing moribund refineries? What will the government do to put an end to dependence on imported fuel? It is imperative to note these questions because we need adequate answers on what the government has to offer as failed promises from the government have become the order of the day.
“To conclude, I hereby demand that if the subsidy is eventually removed, the government should engage more on expenditures that are beneficial to the economy rather than projects that generate losses.
“There should be establishment of modular refineries and construction of functioning refineries in the country. Proactive committees must be set up to check, balance, and ensure successful execution of projects and to generally oversee activities.
“The moribund refineries must be active and we must put an end to the counterproductive acts of importing petroleum products when we can refine here and sell at a competitive price.
“You will agree with me that Nigeria has the capacity to meet these demands and even diversify like advanced countries but that will not happen because the current political class does not want it.”
The IPMAN new executive led by Debo Ahmed as President is to run the affairs of the association for three years include Alhaji Zarma Mustapha and Mr. John Kekeocha as deputy national chairman and national secretary, respectively.
Others are Mr. Omololu Omotaduwa, national Assistantsecretary; Chief Benjamin Omale; national treasurer; Chief Linus Mgbakogu, national financial secretary, and Elder Chinedu Ukadike, national publicity secretary, amongst others.
Meanwhile, IPMAN National President, Debo Ahmed said, “The nation is facing a magnitude of insecurity threat. As IPMAN, we need to address this issue and the effects on our business and the environment where we operate.
‘COVID-19 is still epidemic with us. What advise have we given to our members and their staff on the need to take COVID shot to improve on their body immunity so that they can be productive to their family and community?
“Our members have billions of Naira as transport claims with the defunct Petroleum Equalisation Fund now with Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) unattended. As a united association, we have to follow up to make sure our members are paid unconditionally.
“The new Customer Service Department in Petroleum Products Marketing (PPMC) is another bottleneck tying down members billions of Naira for product payment without supply.
“Rising cost of levies charged for outlets is escalating across the country from some federal and state government agencies. IPMAN national is to dwell in all these extra cost to harmonise the justification if need be and so many other issues pending.”
Also in a goodwill message, both leadership of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), recognized the Ahmed-led IMPAN and promised their support, which also they called for peace amongst its members.
Other dignitaries who graced the occasion, include, former Deputy National Chairman of NLC and federal lawmaker, Comrade Joseph Akinlaja; National Chairman of the Petroleum Tanker’s Drivers Branch of NUPENG, Comrade Salimon Oladiti; Chairman, Board of Trustees of IPMAN, Chief Obasi Lawson; and National Chairman of National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Alhaji Yusuf Othman, amongst others.
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