Tax holiday: Appeal Court orders retrial of NIMASA, NLNG levies case

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The Court of Appeal in Lagos has set aside a Federal High Court judgment which exempted the Nigeria LNG Ltd from levies imposed by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

The appellate court returned the 2013 case to the lower court and ordered that it be re-assigned to another judge for retrial.

In a unanimous decision, a three-man panel of the appellate court led by Justice Garuba Lawal upheld NIMASA’s argument that the lower court erred in its judgment delivered on October 3, 2017.

Other members of the panel were Justice Abimbola Obaseki-Adejumo and Justice Gabriel Kolawole.

The Justices upheld NIMASA’s contention, made through its lawyer Lateef Fagbemi SAN, that the lower court breached NIMASA’s fundamental right to fair hearing.

In its judgment read by Justice Joseph Ikyegh, the appellate court held: “The appeal is allowed, and the judgment delivered by the lower court in October 2017 is hereby set aside.

‘The case is hereby ordered to be sent back to the administrative judge of the Lagos Division of the lower court to be assigned to a judge for expeditious determination on its merit.

‘Parties are to bear the administrative cost of the appeal.”

In 2017, a judge of the Federal High Court, Lagos, Justice Muhammed Idris, who is now at the Court of Appeal, decided the suit in NLNG’s favour.

The judge held that NLNG was not liable to make the said payments to NIMASA and that all payments already made by NLNG to NIMASA should be refunded to NLNG.

The judge further held that NIMASA was wrong in blockading the Bonny Channel for the purpose of enforcing the payments against NLNG.

Dissatisfied, NIMASA filed an appeal before the Appeal Court challenging the judgment on the ground of fair hearing among others.

NIMASA averred that the NLNG was liable to pay three per cent gross freight on its international in-bound and out-bound cargo as sea protection levy.

It also averred that NLNG is to pay two per cent cabotage surcharge on all activities carried out for and on its behalf as well as other sundry claims.

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