By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Thursday, stopped the Nigerian Postal Services, NIPOST, from further collecting N50 on stamp duty.
The court held that such revenue drive by NIPOST does not enjoy the backing of any extant law in the country including the Stamp Duties Act 2004.
The court Judgement followed a suit the Nigerian bottling company, NBC, filed against NIPOST and a private firm, Kasmal International Services.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole who gave the verdict, held that having carefully gone through the Stamp Duties Act 2004, he could not see where NIPOST was empowered by the law to impose stamp duty tax on the bottling company, banks and other establishments.
According to the Judge, whereas the Act recommended 2kobo stamp to be affixed on certain categories of documents, NIPOST, lacked the power to arbitrarily increase the amount to N50 without firstly securing an amendment of the Act through the National Assembly.
“A law is a law and has to be obeyed or implemented as it is. Section 89 of the Stamp Duties Act which recommended the use of adhesive 2 kobo stamp on certain categories of receipts and document is the law in force.
“The NIPOST as a defendant in this suit acted unlawfully, illegally and ultra-vire by unilaterally increasing the 2 kobo stamp to N50 without any back up law and under the guise that 2 kobo stamps are no longer in circulation in Nigeria.
“Under section 89 of this Act, the NIPOST has no power to compel the plaintiff (NBC) to affix N50 stamp on its receipts and other documents.
“By this, NIPOST has no business or authority in sending Kasmal International Services on illegal errand to compel the plaintiff on the N50 stamp duty tax”.
Consequently, the court issued an order of injunction against the NIPOST and Kasmal International Services, stopping them from further harassing, embarrassing, intimidating, coercing or disrupting the business operation of the plaintiff in the name of unlawful stamp duty tax until the extant laws are reviewed.
It said: “The extant law is for 2 kobo stamp. No law has amended the Stamp Duties Act 2004 to increase it to N50. At any rate, NIPOST is not a tax collecting establishment and as such, cannot exercise any power not expressly donated to it by law”.
More so, Justice Kolawole recalled that the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal had earlier delivered judgment on the same issue.
He said the Federal High Court, being a lower court, cannot afford to depart from the precedent of a Superior Court as regards the judgment until such a precedent has been set aside by the highest court in the country.
Basically, NBC had through its counsel, Mr. Ayokunle Adesomoju, dragged NIPOST and Kasmal International Services before the court, praying for an order to declare the stamp duty tax as illegal, unlawful and ultra-vire.
The plaintiff also applied for a perpetual order of injunction stopping the two defendants from invading, harassing, embarrassing and disrupting its business operations across the country on the pretext of seeking internal revenue for the federal government.
NIPOST had through its counsel Mr. Salihu Wakawa, prayed the court to dismiss the suit, insisting that granting reliefs sought by the plaintiff would occasion great injustice and jeopardise the revenue drive of the Federal Government.
The President Muhammadu Buhari led administration had expressed its determination to generate over N5trillion from stamp duty tax.