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VAT: Wike Goes To Supreme Court

Rivers State’s Governor Nyesom Wike
Rivers State’s Governor Nyesom Wike

September 15, (THEWILL) –  The Rivers state government has asked the Supreme Court to set aside the ruling of the Abuja Court of Appeal that ordered parties to maintain the status quo in a suit seeking to determine who has the right to collect value-added tax (VAT) generated in Rivers state.

THEWILL reported that Justice Stephen Pam of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, had in a judgment delivered on August 9 held that the Rivers state government, not the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), has the right to collect VAT and personal income tax in the state.

However, the appellate court in a ruling last Friday ordered all parties that have submitted themselves before the court to maintain status quo ante bellum.

The order was to enable the court hear the Lagos state joinder application before taking the motion for stay and interlocutory injunction brought before it by the FIRS, asking the court to set aside the judgment of the trial court, pending the hearing of the main suit.

The appellate court held that the right of Lagos state would be affected adversely if not heard since the appellant had already made allegations against it.

The three-member panel, however, in a unanimous decision held that the parties must maintain the status quo. It subsequently adjourned to September 16 for the hearing of the application for joinder by the Lagos attorney-general.

Displeased with the decision, Rivers state on Tuesday approached the Supreme Court to set aside the ruling of the Justice Tsammani-led panel on grounds that the lower court erred in ordering status quo ante bellum after it earlier held that the application for joinder by Lagos state must be heard first before the motion for stay and interlocutory injunction by the FIRS.

In the appeal filed by a team of lawyers led by Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), Rivers state argues that the appellate court ordering status quo ante bellum amounts to granting the reliefs being sought by the FIRS when the main application has not been heard and determined.

It maintained that the court was wrong in ordering status quo after the Rivers State House of Assembly had passed its VAT law, which was assented to by the Governor, Nyesom Wike, on August 19.

Rivers state is therefore praying the apex court to order that the substantive appeal by the FIRS, marked CA/PH/282/2021, and all other processes therein, be heard and determined by a new panel of the Court of Appeal.