A Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos, Tuesday further adjourned hearing until January 30 and 31, 2020 about a suit filed by MTN Nigeria Communication Ltd against the Attorney General of the Federation, over alleged N242 billion and $1.3 billion import duties and withholding tax assessments.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that MTN instituted the suit by a writ, on September 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.
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 from MTN is premised on a process which is malicious, unreasonable and made on an incorrect legal basis.
When the case was called on Tuesday, Wole Olanipekun, a senior advocate of Nigeria, leading a team of other senior lawyers appeared for MTN.
On the other hand, T.A. Gazali, a State Counsel from the Federal Ministry of Justice, alongside Terhember Agbe, announced appearances for the AGF.
The plaintiff’s counsel then informed the court that he was ready to proceed with the 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 the 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 an extension of time to regularise his processes.
Following consensus of parties, Chukwujekwu Aneke, the judge, adjourned the case until January 30 and 31, 2020, for hearing.
Meanwhile. the court vacated the November 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 August 20, for the sums of N242 billion and $1.3 billion 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.
Akwa Ibom: DPR seals 13 illegal petrol stations
The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Eket Field Office, in Akwa Ibom has sealed 13 filling stations for acts of illegality and non-renewal of licenses in the state.
The DPR Operations Controller in the state, Tamunoiminabo Kingsley-Sundaye, disclosed this on Wednesday in Uyo during a routine surveillance on petrol stations.
Kingsley-Sundaye said the filling stations were sealed in Uyo, Essien Udim, Ikot Ekpene, Abak, Etim, Ika Local Government Areas of the state.
He explained that out of the 13 stations sealed, seven were sealed for non-approval to build or operate the stations while six did not renew their licenses.
“Seven of them do not have approval to build filling stations.
“The team of DPR on routine surveillance went out to some areas in Akwa Ibom to ensure compliance in terms of standard, safety engineering standard and operating standard,” he said.
The operations controller said the department had given prior warning to defaulting stations but they were recalcitrant and refused to comply with guidelines and standard of operations.
“There are some people who are adamant and they feel the system is weak or the government is weak to make them to obey the law. We will continue to do what is right,” Mr Kingsley-Sundaye said.
He said the department collaborated with the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to arrest defaulters of oil and gas in the state in October.
He noted that after the arrest, a good number of the defaulters came back to do the right thing while two petroleum marketers, who were arrested, refused to do the right thing.
Kingsley-Sundaye added that those petroleum marketers who built filling stations without approved licenses would be sanctioned and prosecuted in the court of law.
“The department will approach court of law to prosecute the defaulters in the state.
“If your license expires, the law states, you don’t have the authority to continue doing such business.
“When you continue to operate illegally, it is a criminal matter but not a civil matter and the law enforcement agency will assist us to do what is right.
“It is cheaper for you to obey the law than to break it,” the operation controller said.
He advised some of the petroleum marketers to approach DPR if they wanted to build filling stations or site oil and gas facilities in the state.
Court okays forfeiture order of N2.4bn properties linked to ex-PPMC boss
The Federal government has secured an interim forfeiture order from the Federal High Court in Abuja to seize N2.4 billion and properties allegedly linked to a former Managing Director of the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC), Haruna Momoh.
In a statement signed by its spokesperson, Rasheedat Okoduwa, on Monday, the ICPC alleged Momoh illegally acquired the said monies and properties.
The ICPC said the properties to be forfeited are Plot 199, Ebitu Ukiwe Street, Utako, Nos. 21, 22, 23 and 26 Olympia Estate, Kaura District, Plot 1824, Cadastral Zone, BO7, Katampe, plot 1827, Cadastral Zone, BO7, Katampe and No. 6 Casamance street, Wuse Zone 3, all in Federal Capital, Abuja.
The commission said its investigations had also revealed that the former PPMC boss allegedly abused his position by using cronies and shell companies to divert government funds.
It added that the accused had unlawfully used different companies to secure contracts from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) without any corresponding evidence of execution.
”The ICPC had secured an interim forfeiture order from a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to seize the N2, 417, 037, 404 billion comprising of foreign and local currencies, stashed in multiple accounts in four different banks as well as five landed properties located in different parts of Abuja metropolis.
”He allegedly used Multi-Functions Nigeria Limited, Blaid Property limited and Blaid Construction Limited to carry out several unlawful activities running into billions of naira. Contracts were secured for the companies from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) without any corresponding evidence of execution.”
Further, the commission said it traced four bank accounts with the United Bank for Africa (UBA) to Mr Momoh’s wife – in them was stashed the sum of N469.2 million in foreign and local currencies.
Also $1.7 million and N496.2 million respectively were found in an account with Union Bank.
”The wife has four bank accounts with the United Bank for Africa (UBA) where the combined sum of N469.2 million in foreign and local currencies was stashed and two other accounts with Union Bank, where the Commission found $1, 678, 975 million and N496, 137, 895 million respectively.
”ICPC further discovered Euro 173, 601.55, $5, 563.21 and N876, 209, 744 million three Stanbic IBTC bank accounts traced to Multi-functions Nigeria Limited and the sum of N800, 663.43 in Citibank also belonging to the same company.”
Justice Adeniyi, while granting the interim forfeiture, ruled that the money be placed in an interest-yielding escrow account in the name of ICPC.
FG lists conditions to reopen borders
The Federal government on Monday gave a list of conditions that must be met for it to reopen its borders.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, alongside members of the Inter-ministerial committee on the temporary partial closure of land borders, held a press briefing in Abuja to discuss the issues.
The nation’s borders have been closed for several weeks in a move the government said was to grow the local economy and reduce illegal importation.
The issue has generated controversy in the economy with many condemning the government for not providing palliatives to curb the expected rise in basic goods for families. Some also argue that the border closure violates Nigeria’s agreements within ECOWAS and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
Other Nigerians have, however, commended the initiative saying it would help increase local production and use of made-in-Nigerian goods.
It was also reported how officials of the federal government said the closure has led to increased revenue for the Nigeria Customs Service and a reduction in the volume of petrol smuggled outside Nigeria. Mr Buhari has since extended the border closure to January next year.
However, some conditions were agreed upon by members of the Nigerian side of the tripartite committee set up to review the policy.
The conditions as stated by Mr Onyeama are as follows:
– Any import coming from outside an ECOWAS region and imported into an ECOWAS member state must maintain its original packaging. They must be escorted from the port directly to the designated entry point in the Nigerian border, presented to the Nigerian customs with their original packaging. Compromises will not be tolerated.
– Goods produced predominantly in ECOWAS member states must satisfy the ECOWAS rules of origin to avoid any possibility of downplay. Goods must be majorly produced in ECOWAS countries.
If the goods are coming from outside ECOWAS, the value addition must be over 30 per cent for it to be accepted within the framework of the Economic Trade Liberalisation Scheme that ECOWAS countries have to promote trade among them.
This is to avoid countries outside member states from exporting their goods into ECOWAS region repackaged, as though they are coming from an ECOWAS region.4
– All warehouses along the shared borders of Nigeria must be dismantled.
– Goods being transported must be put in proper recognized packaging. No longer will we have goods of all shapes and sizes going through the borders. To maintain the best practices of those goods, an accepted condition for packaging will be established.
– In regards to free movements of persons, all persons moving through Nigerian borders must present themselves through recognized entry points and must have recognized travel documents (country passport).
In two weeks Nigeria will be hosting a tripartite meeting (Niger, Benin, and Nigeria) to further review the policy.
Heads of ministries of foreign affairs, interior, finance, customs, immigration, NIA and other security segments will form the committees of each country represented.
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