The Supreme Court has yet to fix a date for the hearing of the appeal filed by the Rivers State Government challenging the order of the Court of Appeal, which directed parties to maintain status quo in the dispute over the right authority to collect Value Added Tax in the state.
The Federal Inland Revenue Service had approached the Court of Appeal in Abuja to challenge the judgement of the Federal High Court in Rivers State which ruled on August 9 that the state, and not the FIRS, should be the authority collecting VAT and Personal Income Tax in the state.
The Court of Appeal had on September 10 ruled that the parties in the suit should maintain status quo. On Thursday, however, the Appeal Court also said it reserved ruling on the application for a joinder filed by the Lagos State Government.
UGAMATV reported that the Rivers State Government had approached the Supreme Court of Nigeria to challenge the ruling of the Court of Appeal that the parties should maintain status quo.
The counsel for the Rivers State Government on the matter, Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), said in an interview on Friday that they had just filed their processes at the apex court and had yet to be given a date.
“No date yet,” he said. “We just filed (the appeal). We need to settle records. When we have done that, they will give us a date.”
In the notice of appeal, the Rivers State Government argued among others that the “Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law when they relied on the provisions of Section 6(6) of the constitution and the inherent jurisdiction of the court to found their decision to make an order to maintain status quo which they identified as restoring the parties to the position they were before the judgment of the Federal High Court in FHC/PH/CS/149/2020 was delivered on August 9, 2021.”
Rivers State also argued that “the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law when they wrongly assumed jurisdiction to entertain the oral application for maintenance of status quo made by the Counsel for the Federal Inland Revenue Service (the 1st Respondent herein) in spite of the fact that a condition precedent to the invocation of the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal was not fulfilled by the 1st Respondent.”
It also alleged that the justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law and breached Rivers State’s right to fair hearing when they entertained a vague oral application for maintenance of status quo and went ahead to make far-reaching orders.
We support states’ collection of VAT—Rivers ALGON
Meanwhile, the Rivers State chapter of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria said it was fully in support of the state collecting VAT and not the FIRS.
The Chairman of Port Harcourt City Local Government Area, Alwell Ihunda, who is also the chairman of ALGON in the state, stated this in an interview with one of our correspondents.
He said, “Of course, VAT should be collected by the state governments. The constitution does not permit FIRS to collect VAT. So, we are totally in support of the state governments to collect VAT.”
Asked if ALGON would go to court on the matter, he said there was already a matter pending in court between the Federal Government and the Rivers State Government.
“ALGON will definitely support the state government on the issue. ALGON Rivers State is totally behind the state government for the collection of VAT,” he added.
‘Rivers, Lagos should take grievances to Joint Tax Board’
The Chairman, Gombe State Internal Revenue Service, Inuwa Tata, has asked Rivers and Lagos states to take their grievances over the collection of VAT to the Joint Tax Board for a solution.
Speaking during an award presentation in Gombe by the Chairman of the Revenue Magazine, Mr Frederick Apeji, Tata stated that the state had the sixth fastest growing internal revenue.
The state Commissioner for Finance, Muhammad Magaji, had urged Rivers and Lagos states to have the interest of other states at heart while pushing for the collection of VAT in their states.
Tata said, “There is what is called the horizontal and vertical distribution formula. Those states that want VAT to be collected by individual states can channel their grievances to the Joint Tax Board. This is a unifying platform that makes decisions on behalf of the entities and all the states are represented there. We are not saying when they succeed in their appeal that we are not going to comply. We have the capacity and we will build more.”
He explained that the current administration in the state had been able to increase its internally generated revenue from between N200m and N300m monthly to an average of N716m monthly in 2020.
He added, “The figure we had from January to August 2021 on average was N786m including the PAYE. We will continue to improve to ensure the number keeps growing.”
Apeji explained that the annual Nigerian States IGR Awards Programme was designed to encourage and foster a healthy competition among the FCT and the 36 states.
Meanwhile, a civil rights movement under the aegis of Association of Concerned Citizens of Nigeria on Revenue and Economy on Friday expressed concern over what it described as “the outdated tax law in the country”. It said the system should be overhauled.
The National Coordinator of ACCNRE, Orji Orji, said at a news conference in Abuja that Nigeria must learn from other nations on how to effectively generate revenue, even as he called on the National Assembly to fast-track the passage of the National Inspector General for Tax Crime Commission Bill.
This, Orji said, would propel a transparent tax system that would ensure that the method of using anti-graft agencies to go after taxpayers would no longer be needed.
It’s time to exploit potential of each state – PGF DG
The Director General, Progressives Governors Forum, Dr Salihu Lukman, has said it is time for Nigerian politics to be refocused to tap into the productive potential of each state instead of the current debate on revenue sharing.
Lukman, in a paper titled, ‘Retrogressive politics of Value Added Tax in Nigeria,” made public in Abuja on Friday, said it was retrogressive to be debating about the little allocation states currently receive from the federation account.
He said, “There is no reason why any state in the country, including Zamfara, Yobe, Osun, Ekiti, Abia and Ebonyi should not aspire to generate at least N10bn to 15bn monthly as internally generated revenue. As a nation, our politics and democracy must be refocused towards nurturing the productive potential of every state.”