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VAT battle: Despite urgency, Supreme Court yet to hear Rivers, Lagos case.

Seven days after the rivers state government dragged the Federal Inland Service before the Supreme Court challenging the order by the Court of Appeal directing parties to maintain status quo in the Value Added Tax dispute, there is uncertainty over when the apex court will sit on the matter. This is despite the urgency of the matter as some firms are already complaining of not knowing where to remit this month’s VAT between states and the Federal Government.

The appeal filed by the Attorney General of Rivers State was dated September 13. Investigations by revealed that the appeal had not been listed for this week at the apex court. As of the time of filing this report, it was also unclear if the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, had constituted the panel to hear and determine the appeal. The media aide to the CJN, Ahuraka Isah, in an interview with our correspondent on Tuesday, confirmed that the matter had not been listed for hearing for the week.

The matter was not listed for hearing this week so I cannot find out whether the panel has been constituted or not,” he said.

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers had earlier threatened to “take over” all offices of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) in the oil-rich south-south state if the federal government agency continues with its “bullying. The governor spoke at a stakeholders’ meeting in Port Harcourt, the state capital while addressing business owners in the state. Wike instructed all business owners operating in the state to start remitting their VAT to the Rivers government starting from September 2021.

Meanwhile, the Lagos state government on Friday, September 10, applied to the Court of Appeal in Abuja to be joined as a co-respondent in the appeal filed by FIRS against Rivers state. The FIRS is challenging the judgment of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, which held that Rivers state has the power to collect VAT within its domain. The Attorney General of Lagos, Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), informed the court of the state’s interest to be joined as a party in the appeal.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian presidency has said President Muhammadu Buhari will respect the final verdict on the issue of Value Added Tax (VAT) as decided by the Supreme Court. The presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, made the disclosure while speaking during an interview on Arise TV. Adesina noted that though the case may drag up to the Supreme Court, the Nigerian leader would respect the rule of law. The president’s aide sharing his opinion said that the issue of VAT is good because there have been talks about restructuring and fiscal federalism in Nigeria.

By Uju Chukwuemeka

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