Tax Assessment: Court Fixes Jan. 30, 2020 For MTN’s Suit Against AGF

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A Federal High Court Lagos on Tuesday, further adjourned hearing until Jan. 30 and Jan. 31, 2020, a suit filed by MTN Nigeria Communication Ltd, against the Attorney General of the Federation, over alleged N242 billion and 1.3 billion dollars import duties and withholding tax assessments.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that MTN instituted the suit by a writ, on Sept.10, 2018, 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 dollars.

The plaintiff is seeking among other declaratory reliefs, 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.

When the case was called on Tueday, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, leading a team of other senior lawyers appeared for MTN. On the other hand, Mr T.A. Gazali, a State Counsel from the Federal Ministry of Justice, alongside Mr Terhember Agbe, announced appearances for the AGF.

Plaintiff’s counsel then informed the court that he was ready to proceed with trial but had been called by the respondent who informed him that he would not be able to proceed with trial as he was representing government in another matter.

Olanipekun also told the court that he had filed a reply to the plaintiff’s motion and had served same on him but added that since the respondent said he required time to study same, it will only be fair to allow him.

On his part, Gazali also informed the court of his motion seeking extension of time to regularise his processes. Following consensus of parties, Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke adjourned the case until Jan. 30 and 31, 2020 for hearing.

Meanwhile. the court vacated the Nov. 31 initial date. In its writ of summons, MTN is seeking declaratory reliefs on the following grounds:

That the purported “Revenue assets investigation” allegedly carried out by the Federal Government on MTN, for the period of 2007 to 2017, and its decision conveyed through the office of the AGF by a letter dated Aug. 20, violates the provisions of section 36 of the constitution.

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.

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.

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.

In addition, the plaintiff wants a court order, vacating the AGF’s demand letter dated Aug. 20, for the sums of N242 billion and 1.3 billion dollars from MTN Nigeria Communications Ltd.

Besides, MTN is claiming a total sum of N3 billion in damages, against the defendant, which covers General damages, exemplary damages, and Legal costs.

Meanwhile, in its preliminary objection, the AGF argues that the plaintiff in seeking redress to the subject matter, has just three months from the date the cause of action arose, to institute the action.

It argues 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 plaintiff’s failure to commence the suit within three months as stipulated by law, robs the court of jurisdiction to entertain same.

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