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VAT Dispute: Appeal Court Orders All Parties To Maintain Status Quo

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The Appeal Court sitting in Abuja has ordered all parties to maintain the status quo and refrain from taking action that would give effect to the judgement of a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt that allowed the Rivers State government to collect Value Added Tax (VAT), pending the hearing and determination of the instant suit.

A three-man panel of the appellate court led by Justice Haruna Tsammani gave the order on Friday while ruling on an appeal filed by the Federal Internal Revenue Service (FIRS).

The order of the appellate court is the latest development in the series of legal tussles over whose responsibility it is to collect VAT.

Although the FIRS has taken up the responsibility over the years, the Rivers State government tested the legality recently, and it was worth the move.

On August 19, Governor Nyesom Wike assented to the Valued Added Tax Law, 2021 along with four others following their passage by the Rivers State House of Assembly.

His action was sequel to the judgement delivered by Justice Stephen Pam of the Federal High Court in the state capital who held that states should collect VAT, and not the Federal Government.

Displeased with the decision of the court, the FIRS filed a motion on notice to apply for a stay of execution on the earlier judgement delivered by Justice Pam.

But the court said 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.

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.

As the legal battle continues, the action of the Rivers State government received the support of some states, especially Lagos.

The appellate court, in its ruling, held that the motion of joinder by the Lagos State government be heard and gave the applicants two days to file their written addresses.

Similarly, the respondents have been given two days to file their response, while the applicants were given a day to reply on the point of law.

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Judiciary

27 Rivers Assembly Lawmakers Dump PDP For APC

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Rivers State Governor Siminalayi Fubara and his predecessor, Nyesom Wike
Rivers State Assembly Complex. Insets: Governor Siminalayi Fubara (L) with FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike
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The Current political drama in Rivers State has taken a new turn as 27 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly have defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

A member of the Assembly, Enemi George, confirmed to Channels Television that the 27 lawmakers were under the leadership of Martin Amaewhule.

He said the decision was taken during their sitting on Monday morning.

For weeks, Amaewhule and another member, Edison Ehie, have been embroiled in a Speakership tussle. Amaewhule is believed to be loyal to ex-governor Nyesom Wike while Ehie is known to be in the camp of Governor Siminalayi Fubara.

The Assembly under Amaewhule had in October served an impeachment notice on the governor and removed Ehie as the House leader. However, some members of the Assembly loyal to Fubara immediately impeached Amaewhule and made Ehie the new Speaker.

The crisis in the 32-member Assembly had begun as a result of a rift between Fubara and his predecessor, Wike, who is now the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Though the two politicians have both attended same public events in the last few weeks and all seemed to have been settled but with Monday’s defection of 27 lawmakers from the PDP to the APC, more drama might unfold in the state’s political arena.

Meanwhile, some political players from other parties over the weekend announced their defection to the PDP.

Leading the defectors from the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the APC were the deputy governorship candidate of the SDP in the 2023 election, Patricia Ogbonnaya; and former Ahoada-West Chairman, Karibo Wilson.

They decamped alongside their supporters and other party excos.

The politicians dumped their former parties to pitch tent with the PDP group loyal to Fubara.

Also in attendance were some of the Ehie-led group of lawmakers, with the member representing Ahoada West, Goodboy Sokari representing the governor alongside Oko Jumbo from Bonny Constituency.

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Judiciary

NJC Recommends Appointment Of 11 Supreme Court Justices

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The National Judicial Council (NJC) has recommended the appointment of 11 justices to the Supreme Court.

A statement by the apex court’s Director of Information, Soji Oye, said the recommendation was made at the 104th meeting of the council in Abuja on Wednesday.

The recommended candidates would be sworn-in after the approval of their recommendation by President Bola Tinubu and the subsequent confirmation of their appointment by the Senate.

With this appointment, the apex court will have the full complement of 21 justices, as envisaged by the Constitution.

Those recommended for appointment to the Supreme Court are:

Hon. Justice Jummai Hannatu Sankey, OFR
Hon. Justice Chidiebere Nwaoma Uwa
Hon. Justice Chioma Egondu Nwosu-Iheme
Hon. Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani
Hon. Justice Moore Aseimo A. Adumein
Hon. Justice Obande Festus Ogbuinya
Hon. Justice Stephen Jonah Adah
Hon. Justice Habeeb Adewale O. Abiru
Hon. Justice Jamilu Yammama Tukur
Hon. Justice Abubakar Sadiq Umar
Hon. Justice Mohammed Baba Idris

The NJC at its last meeting for the year also recommended the appointment of Justice Mohammed Ramat to the Court of Appeal, as well as six heads of courts and 26 other judicial officers.

The various Heads of Court recommended would also be sworn-in upon the approval of their appointment by their various State Governors and subsequent confirmation of same by their respective State Houses of Assembly.

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Judiciary

CJN Urges Judges To Remain Fair In Judgements

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Justice Olukayode Ariwoola
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The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, has asked Judges to maintain the integrity that the Judiciary is known for and remain fair and firm in their Judgements.

The CJN was speaking at the opening of the special session of the 2023/2024 Legal year and Swearing-in of 58 newly conferred Senior Advocates of Nigeria In Abuja.

Ariwoola added that he expects every judicial officer to work very hard and also be very honest and courteous to the litigants, witnesses and members of the bar, and discharge all their judicial functions with all the humility at your command.

While pledging to safeguard the rule of law, the holistic independence of the judiciary and the trust and confidence of the public, the CJN further reiterated the determination of the Judiciary, not to be overwhelmed by the sentiments of the public in their decisions.

He stated that the law remained the law, no matter whose interest was involved.

He charged them that In all they do, as interpreters of the law, they should endeavour to severe the strings of emotion from logic and assumption from fact.

The CJN further reminded the judges that it is necessary to have at the back of their minds that public opinions, sentiments or emotions can never take the place of the law in deciding the cases that come before them.

He stated that the Judiciary, as it is today, is more deserving of public trust and confidence than ever before; and they are poised to reposition it for effective justice delivery to make the country a destination of note in the observance of the rule of law and tenets of Constitutionalism.

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