Court adjourns MTN suit accusing Nigerian govt of ‘malicious’ taxation
A suit filed by MTN Nigeria Communication Ltd against the Attorney General of the Federation, over alleged N242 billion and $1.3 billion import duties and withholding tax assessments have been adjourned until January 30 and 31, 2020 for hearing by a Lagos Division Federal High Court on Tuesday.
MTN instituted the suit by a writ, on September 10, 2018, challenging mainly, the legality of the AGF’s assessment of its import duties, withholding tax and value-added tax in the sums of N242 billion and $1.3 billion.
The plaintiff is seeking among other declaratory reliefs, a declaration that the AGF’s demand of the sums of N242 billion and $1.3 billion from MTN is premised on a process which is malicious, unreasonable and made on an incorrect legal basis.
When the case was called on Tuesday, Wole Olanipekun, a senior advocate of Nigeria, leading a team of other senior lawyers appeared for MTN.
On the other hand, T.A. Gazali, a State Counsel from the Federal Ministry of Justice, alongside Terhember Agbe, announced appearances for the AGF.
The plaintiff’s counsel then informed the court that he was ready to proceed with the trial but had been called by the respondent who informed him that he would not be able to proceed with trial as he was representing the government in another matter.
Olanipekun also told the court that he had filed a reply to the plaintiff’s motion and had served same on him but added that since the respondent said he required time to study same, it will only be fair to allow him.
On his part, Gazali also informed the court of his motion seeking an extension of time to regularise his processes.
Following consensus of parties, Chukwujekwu Aneke, the judge, adjourned the case until January 30 and 31, 2020, for hearing.
Meanwhile the court vacated the November 31 initial date.
In its writ of summons, MTN is seeking declaratory reliefs on the following grounds:
That the purported “Revenue assets investigation” allegedly carried out by the Federal Government on MTN, for the period of 2007 to 2017, and its decision conveyed through the office of the AGF by a letter dated Aug. 20, violates the provisions of section 36 of the constitution.
A Declaration that the AGF acted in excess of its powers, by purporting to direct through its letter of May 10, a “self-assessment exercise” which usurps the powers of the Nigerian Customs Service to demand payment of import duties on importation of physical goods.
A Declaration that the AGF acted illegally, by usurping the powers of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, to audit and demand remittance of withholding tax and value-added tax.
A Declaration that the purported “self-assessment” exercise instituted by the AGF via its letter of May 10, is unknown to law, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
In addition, the plaintiff wants a court order vacating the AGF’s demand letter dated August 20, for the sums of N242 billion and $1.3 billion from MTN Nigeria Communications Ltd.
Besides, MTN is claiming a total sum of N3 billion in damages against the defendant, which covers General damages, exemplary damages, and legal costs.
Meanwhile, in its preliminary objection, the AGF argues that the plaintiff in seeking redress to the subject matter has just three months from the date the cause of action arose to institute the action.
It argues that the plaintiff commenced the suit in clear disregard to Section 2 of the Public Officers Protection Act, which provides that any action commenced against a public officer, must be made within three months from commencement of cause of action.
AGF argues that plaintiff’s failure to commence the suit within three months as stipulated by law robs the court of jurisdiction to entertain same.
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