The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and prominent Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SANs) have warned the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the National Assembly to desist from any illegality in their bid to amend the Value Added Tax (VAT) law in the country.
The Publicity Secretary of the NBA, Rapulu Nduka, and Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa and Afam Osigwe, gave the warning on Thursday in separate interviews while reacting to the judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, which held that the Rivers State Government had the right to collect VAT in the state.
The NBA urged the lawmakers representing different states to be on the watch for the request by the FIRS to include VAT on the Exclusive Legislative List while on the other hand, SANs supported moves by the Lagos and Rivers state governments to take over the collection of the tax.
Nduka who supported the judgment of the Federal High Court, said it was valid and the FIRS could appeal the judgment.
He said, “Firstly, the judgment of the Federal High Court regarding VAT, to the best of my knowledge, is a valid judgment. If the FIRS feels aggrieved, it can appeal to the Court of Appeal.
“On the issue of the FIRS requesting the National Assembly to amend the Constitution to put VAT collection on the exclusive legislative list, Nigeria is a country governed by laws and the NBA advocates the promotion of the rule of law.
“There are procedures for the amendment of aspects of the Constitution, which must be followed. We hope that our lawmakers do the right thing. Thankfully, we have representatives from all states of the federation.
“I will be surprised if the FIRS pushes for a distinct Federal Revenue Court, especially at this time.
“It really speaks volumes. We must recall that the Federal High Court used to be a revenue court. One would wonder if the proper response to an unfavorable judgment is to ask for new courts.”
Another legal practitioner, Kudos Okor, who insisted that VAT should not be collected by the FIRS said, “If you look at constitutional provisions, you will find out that a lot of the taxes paid to the Federal Government are actually supposed to be paid to the states.
“I believe the demand of the FIRS is inappropriate; it is only trying to extort Nigerians. I advise every state governor to kick against this demand. No state governor should allow the Federal Government to take what rightfully belongs to the state.”
Following the court’s rejection of the FIRS’ application for stay of execution, the Rivers State Government ordered companies in the state to commence payment of VAT to its revenue board.
The FIRS had written to the National Assembly to seek the inclusion of VAT on the exclusive legislative list.