…as AGF cites Appeal Court’s ‘status quo’ ruling
The Federal Government on Thursday declared that the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) will continue to collect Value Added Tax (VAT) following a recent ruling of the Court of Appeal on the matter.
It has thus put in abeyance, the expectation of constituent states, in the aftermath of the ruling of a Rivers State High Court that VAT proceeds should actually go to the purse of the state’s government.
Already, the Lagos State Government has applied to be a joinder in the riveting suit.
The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) disclosed the FG’s resolve to newsmen in New York while speaking on the disagreement over the collection of VAT between FIRS and Rivers State Government.
Malami averred that the ruling of the Court of Appeal that FIRS and the Rivers Government maintain status quo, actually favoured the continued collection of VAT by the FIRS.
He justified his position by saying that it was the FIRS that had been collecting the VAT before the dispute arose, over which the Rivers government approached the High Court.
“The position of not only the Federal Government but indeed the judiciary is the fact that status quo associated with the collecting of VAT should be maintained,” Malami appraised.
He added, “And as far as the judicial system is concerned, the status quo as at the time the parties approached the court, was the Federal Inland Revenue Service collecting the value added tax.
“So with that in mind, the Federal Government has succeeded in obtaining an order that establishes the sustenance of the status quo, is that the Federal Inland Revenue Service should continue collection.
“This is pending the determination of the cases that were instituted by states, particularly the Rivers State Government and the Lagos State Government. The cases are being determined by the court.”
Meanwhile, the Rivers government has approached the Supreme Court, urging it to set aside the Court of Appeal’s September 10 ruling, which ordered it and the FIRS to maintain the status quo on the issue of VAT collection.
A three-member panel of the Court of Appeal headed by Haruna Tsammani, had earlier issued the order being challenged at the Supreme Court by the Rivers government.
The Rivers State Government also urged the apex court to disband the panel of the appelate court, which gave the interim order and ordered another one to be constituted to hear the case.
“But one thing of interest is the fact that the Federal Government had indeed taken cognisance of the fact that where there exists a dispute between a State and Federal Government, it is the Supreme Court that should naturally have the jurisdiction to determine the dispute between the state and the federation.
“And we are taking steps to consider the possibility of instituting an action before the Supreme Court for the purpose of having this matter determined once and for all,’’ Malami reappraised.