A counsel in the FIRS legal team has explained that the application for stay of execution of the Judgment delivered by the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt was filed at the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division after same was refused by the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt Division. He explained that the reason for filing the application at the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division is due to the ongoing annual court vacation.
Speaking with DNL, the learned counsel stated “I’m sure you’re aware that the Court of Appeal has been on recess. Because the VAT issue is of urgent national concern, the application by FIRS has to be entertained by a Special Panel of the Court of Appeal which is sitting at Abuja. The Court of Appeal is still on its annual recess.”
Following the news that a Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja had ordered all parties in the suit to maintain the status quo and refrain from taking action that would give effect to the judgement of the Federal High Court pending the hearing and determination of the instant suit, many had wondered why the matter was transferred to the Abuja judicial division of the Court of Appeal for adjudication.
The above concern was further fueled by reports in some quarters that there are plots to have the appeal transferred to Abuja.
It would be recalled that earlier today, a three-man panel of the appellate court led by Justice Haruna Tsammani ordered parties to maintain status quo on an appeal filed by the Federal Internal Revenue Service (FIRS).
The order of the appellate court is the latest development in the series of legal tussles over whose responsibility it is to collect VAT.
Although the FIRS has taken up the responsibility over the years, the Rivers State Government tested the legality recently, and it was worth the move.
On August 19, Governor Nyesom Wike assented to the Valued Added Tax Law, 2021 along with four others following their passage by the Rivers State House of Assembly.
His action was sequel to the judgement delivered by Justice Stephen Pam of the Federal High Court in the state capital who held that states should collect VAT, and not the Federal Government.
Displeased with the decision of the court, the FIRS filed an application for stay of execution on the earlier judgement delivered by Justice Pam but the court refused the application, hence the subsequent application to the Court of Appeal.