Court of Appeal Joins Lagos in VAT Collection Legal Tussle

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The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Thursday joined the Lagos State government as a party to the appeal on the Value Added Tax (VAT) collection legal battle between Rivers State government and the Federal Inland Revenue Service.

The FIRS had appealed the judgement of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, which empowered the Rivers State government to collect VAT.

Lagos State had needed to apply to be joined as a party to the appeal because it was not part of the case at the Federal High Court which led to the judgment being contested by the FIRS.

Moyosore Onigbanjo, the attorney-general of Lagos State, argued the application to be joined as a respondent alongside Rivers State government on 16 September .

While moving the application for Lagos State to be joined as a respondent in the appeal, Mr Onigbanjo told the court that the state would be impacted by the outcome of the appeal.

FIRS lawyer, Mahmud Magaji, had opposed Mr Onigbanjo’s request.

“The joinder application of the applicant (Lagos State government) is faulty from the word go.

“Section 243 (1A & B) of the Constitution does not support a joinder application in a suit like this,” Mr Magaji had said.

He further argued that the Lagos State government was not a party at the trial court in Port Harcourt, adding, “The judgement of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt never mentioned the applicant.”

Ruling

In a ruling on Thursday, the three-man panel of the appellate court, led by Haruna Tsammani, held that Lagos State government established its direct interest in the subject matter of the appeal.

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The panel agreed with the Lagos State government that all the prayers sought by the Rivers State government and granted at the trial court referenced “any other states of the federation,” which include Lagos.

“It is not in doubt that Lagos State is a constituent state in Nigeria,” Mr Tsammani said in the court’s ruling.

“It is therefore my finding that the applicant has been able to establish that he has a direct case in the subject matter of this appeal.

“The application for joinder is in the appeal as the third respondent is accordingly granted.”

The court then ordered the FIRS and the Rivers State government who are parties in the case to serve all the processes in the suit on Lagos State.

Background

The Rivers and Lagos State governments had failed to convince the Court of Appeal in Abuja to stop the FIRS from further collecting Value Added Tax (VAT).

The court refused oral applications for a restraining order against the FIRS made by the legal team of the two states.

Refusing to grant the requests, a three-man panel of the court, led by Haruna Tsanami, directed the lawyers representing the two states to file formal applications instead of oral applications.

The FIRS had appealed the judgement of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt empowering the Rivers State government to collect VAT.

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