The Nigerian Bar Association and prominent senior lawyers, on Thursday, warned the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the National Assembly against any illegality in their bid to amend the Value Added Tax law in the country.
The Publicity Secretary of the NBA, Rapulu Nduka, and Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa and Afam Osigwe, gave the warning in separate interviews with our correspondents in response to the judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, which held that the Rivers State Government had the powers to collect VAT within its territory.
While the NBA urged the lawmakers representing the various states to be on the lookout for the request by the FIRS to include VAT on the Exclusive Legislative List, the SANs supported moves by the Lagos and Rivers state governments to take over the collection of the tax.
Following the court’s rejection of the FIRS’ application for stay of execution, the Rivers State Government ordered companies based in the state to start paying VAT to its revenue board.
Nduka, in an interview, supported the judgment of the Federal High Court, saying it was valid.
He also said the FIRS could appeal the judgment, but stated that the National Assembly should be cautious with the request of the agency for the amendment of the VAT law.
He stated, “Firstly, the judgment of the Federal High Court regarding VAT, to the best of my knowledge, is a valid judgment. If the FIRS feels aggrieved, it can appeal to the Court of Appeal.
“On the issue of the FIRS requesting the National Assembly to amend the Constitution to put VAT collection on the exclusive legislative list, Nigeria is a country governed by laws and the NBA advocates the promotion of the rule of law.
“There are procedures for the amendment of aspects of the Constitution, which must be followed. We hope that our lawmakers do the right thing. Thankfully, we have representatives from all states of the federation.
“I will be surprised if the FIRS pushes for a distinct Federal Revenue Court, especially at this time.
“It really speaks volumes. We must recall that the Federal High Court used to be a revenue court. One would wonder if the proper response to an unfavorable judgment is to ask for new courts.”
Also, a legal practitioner, Kudos Okor, stated that VAT should not be collected by the FIRS.
He stated, “If you look at constitutional provisions, you will find out that a lot of the taxes paid to the Federal Government are actually supposed to be paid to the states.
“I believe the demand of the FIRS is inappropriate; it is only trying to extort Nigerians. I advise every state governor to kick against this demand. No state governor should allow the Federal Government to take what rightfully belongs to the state.”