By Steve Oko – Aba

Chief Tolani Musa, Counsel to  U.A.C Nigeria Plc, in the suit against Cross River Government and four others, has hailed the judgement delivered in favour of his client, saying it will end the impunity of states in the imposition of taxes on business entities.

The suit marked HC/229/2019, is between U.A.C Nigeria Plc trading under the name of UAC Restaurants (Mr Biggs), and five others namely: Government of Cross River State; Cross River State Board Of Internal Revenue; Attorney General/ Commissioner For Justice; Attorney General of the Federation and Federal; and the Inland Revenue Service  who are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd ,4th and 5th Defendants.

The Aba-based legal practitioner, while reacting to the judgement delivered  by Hon. Justice Elias Abua of Calabar High Court, last week, also said it would stop State Governments from usurping the powers of the federal government in tax-related matters.

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He expressed delight over the judgement which he described as ” historic and very resounding”.

The Counsel explained that acting on the instruction of his client, he filed the suit in 2010 to stop the impunity of Cross River Government in imposing taxes on businesses.

According to him, the matter which was initially filed at the Federal High Court Calabar was later transferred to the State High Court upon the application of the first to third (1-3 ) Defendants.

The Plaintif had urged the Court to : “declare that matters involving taxation of incomes, profits and Value Added Taxes are matters under the Exclusive Legislative List in Part 1 of the Second Schedule to the Constitution of Nigeria, 2004 and beyond the power  of the Government of  Cross River State to make such laws.”

The Plaintiff had also urged the Court to make the following Orders: “that Cross River State Tourism Development Levy Law No 20 of 2007 and Amendment Law No 5, 2008 as  enacted by the House of Assembly imposing obligations of levying, taxing and collection of the said levies and taxes on the Plaintiff, amounts to double taxation and therefore prejudicial to the rights and interests  of the Plaintiff and it’s teeming consumers in the state.

“Order compelling the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Defendants to refund the sum of N1, 600, 000.00 paid to it by the Plaintiff in protest to forestall distrainment of the Plaintiff’s charttels and the closure of it’s premises  within the state for its failure within the time stipulated to comply with the aforesaid Law of Cross River State.

– Order perpetual injunction restraining  the 1st and 2nd Defendants by themselves , agents, officers , servants and privies from harassing, intimidating the Plaintiff and its staffers in its restaurants and or distraining , sealing and closing down it’s operations anywhere within Calabar or by any means coercing the Plaintiff to commence the collection and remittance of the said  Tourism Development Levy from it’s customers anywhere within the state including  order Costs of this Action.”

Meanwhile the  court in its judgment made an Order that “Section 2 of the Cross River State Tourism Development Levy ( Amendment ) Law No 5 of 2008 is null, void and set it aside as it purports to usurp the powers conferred upon  the National Assembly under section 4 (1), (2), (3), (4), by both the Exclusive and Concurrent Legislative Lists Part 1and 2 of the Second Schedule to the 1999 Constitution ( as amended).”

The court also set aside  Sections 2 and 4 (1) of the  state Tourism Development Levy Law (amended ) and made  order for the 1st to 3rd defendants to refund the sum of N1, 600,000.00 which the Plaintiff/Claimant paid in protest to forestall distrainment of its goods and chattels and closure of its premises anywhere in the state.

The court  granted the  perpetual injunction prayed by the Plaintiff against the 1-3 defendants, their agents, officers, servants or privies from harassing and intimidating the Plaintiff/Claimant or it’s officers, servants  in its restaurant or trespassing upon its properties and premises  including closing down its operations in the state.

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