$1.3bn Tax: Court Fixes Dec 3 To Hear MTN’s Suit

Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of the Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday fixed December 3 for hearing of a suit filed by MTN Nigeria Communication Ltd against the Attorney General of the Federation, challenging the legality of N242 billion and $1.3 billion import duties and withholding tax assessment imposed on it by the government.

MTN is seeking N3 billion in damages against the federal government for what it described as an illegality premised on a process “which is malicious, unreasonable and made on incorrect legal basis.”

However, in a preliminary objection, the AGF contended that MTN’s failure to commence the suit within three months of the action being complained about, as stipulated by law, robs the court of its jurisdiction to entertain the suit.

At the resumed hearing of the case yesterday, counsel to MTN, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and that of the government, T.A. Gazali informed the court that the matter is ripe for hearing as they have filed and served all the processes on respective parties to the suit.

Based on the development, Justice Aneke fixed December for the hearing of all pending applications filed before the court.

In the suit the telecommunications company is 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 respectively.

MTN is therefore seeking a declaration that the purported “Revenue assets investigation” allegedly carried out by the federal government on it, for the period of 2007–2017, and its decision conveyed through the office of the AGF by a letter dated August 20, violates the provisions of Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution.

The company is also asking for 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.

MTN is further praying the court for 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.

It is also praying the court for 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.

The telecommunications company also wants a declaration that the AGF’s demand of the sums of N242 billion and 1.3 billion dollars from MTN, is premised on a process which is malicious, unreasonable and made on incorrect legal basis.

The plaintiff is urging the court to make an order vacating the AGF’s demand letter dated August 20, for the sums of N242 billion and 1.3 billion dollars from MTN Nigeria Communications Ltd.

MTN is therefore claiming a total sum of N3 billion in damages against the defendant, which covers general damages, exemplary damages, and legal costs.

But in its preliminary objection filed in response to the suit, the AGF argued that the law stated that the plaintiff has just three months from the date the cause of action arose, to institute the suit.

The AGF also maintained 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 the plaintiff’s failure to commence the suit within three months as stipulated by law, robs the court of its jurisdiction to entertain same.

MTN also filed a similar suit before a judge of the same court against The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) over alleged 8.1bllion dollars repatriated funds.

That suit is fixed for December 4 for hearing before Justice Saliu Saidu of the same court.


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