By Bose Adebayo

Lagos State Government has been urged to abide by the ruling of a  Federal High Court siting in Lagos restraining the Government and its agents from collecting consumption tax from hoteliers operating in the state.

Members of Hoteliers Association of Nigeria (HAN), Lagos State Chapter who made the call appealed to the state governor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), to prevail on the officials of the Lagos State Internal Revenue Board to comply with the ruling granted by Justice Okechukwu Okeke, stopping the government from collecting the tax from the Hoteliers pending the determination of their substantive suit.

In his latest ruling on the matter, Justice Okeke refused an application for a stay of execution of earlier order granted by same court against the Lagos State government. In his ruling last Monday, Justice Okechukwu Okeke refused  an application for a stay of execution by the Lagos State government.

While urging both parties to maintain status quo pending the determination of the substantive suit challenging the imposition of consumption tax on the Hoteliers, Justice Okeke held that the state government and its officials should not harass or forcing the hoteliers to pay new tax.  The court had last October restrained the state government from enforcing the payment of consumption tax pending the determination of the suit.

Reacting to the ruling, President of the Lagos State Chapter of HAN, Aare Tola Odunuga, described the ruling as a victory for the rule of law. According to him, “Our members have always restated our belief in the rule of law.  We believe in due process and this is why we went to court to challenge consumption tax which we believe amounts to double taxation since the state government was already collecting Value Added Tax (VAT) from us.  On this ruling, we want to appeal to the state government to obey the ruling.”

Giving reason why the appeal was being made, Odunuga stated that similar rulings in the past had been violated by overzealous officials of the state Internal Revenue Board.   “Our members have had some ugly experiences with some officials of the state government in the past when a similar judgment was given.  Instead of respecting court ruling, they were harassing our members and threatening them.  We believe that as a democratic government, Lagos State should strive to respect the rule of law”, he said.

Arguing that his members would abide by the final court ruling on the issue, Odunuga urged Lagos State Government to toe the same line.  “We strongly believe that consumption tax amounts to double taxation since we are already paying VAT and other levies to Lagos State government.  For this reason, we went to court to challenge the imposition of this new tax since we believe in the rule of law. 

If Lagos State government officials also believe in the rule of law, as they profess, they should let the court decide the matter instead of taking laws into their own hands.  Our members are ready to abide by the court’s ruling on the matter”, he said. Odunuga also debunked claims reportedly being made by some officials of the state government that it is only 35 hoteliers that were covered by the Federal High Court ruling. 

According to him “This is another propaganda by some mischievous officials, our members are over 700 and we sued the state government collectively.  We have already filed another suit at the Federal High Court to disprove the claim by the state officials.

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