Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State (l) and Mr. Muhammad Mamman Nami, Chairman of FIRS

VAT dispute with FIRS not over as Rivers files appeal at Supreme Court of Nigeria

*The Rivers State Government approaches the Supreme Court to challenge the Court of Appeal’s ruling directing the parties to ‘maintain status quo’ on the VAT dispute between the state and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS)

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

Alleging that the Court of Appeal in the Value Added Tax (VAT) dispute erred in law regarding its decision to make an order to maintain status quo in the matter, the Rivers State Government has approached the Supreme Court to challenge the ruling on the VAT dispute between the state in the South-South region of the country and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

Emmanuel Ukala, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) alongside three other senior lawyers has filed a notice of appeal at the apex court, according to documents obtained by Channels TV Tuesday, September 14, 2021.

It was learnt the Attorney-General of Rivers State is the appellant whereas the FIRS and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) are joined as respondents in the matter.

The state government, in the 10 grounds of appeal dated September 13, informed the Supreme Court of Nigeria, 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.

Report indicates in one of the state’s 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.

In view of this observation, the Rivers 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.

The State as well petitioned the Supreme 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.

Overview of VAT dispute between Rivers State and FIRS

ConsumerConnect recalls that sequel to the judgement delivered by Justice Stephen Pam of the Federal High Court, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, has assented to the State’s Valued Added Tax Law 2021.

Hitherto, the bill was passed by lawmakers in the Rivers State House of Assembly, along with four others to which the governor also gave his assent.

However, unsatisfied with the judgement on the VAT dispute, the FIRS 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 tax regulatory 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 across the state.

Thereafter, FIRS also approached the Court of Appeal, in Abuja, FCT, 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.

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