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Wike: Supreme court delaying verdict on VAT dispute… FG still collecting tax

Wike: Supreme court delaying verdict on VAT dispute… FG still collecting tax
January 28
20:45 2022

Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers, has accused the supreme court of being “lethargic” in hearing the suit on the collection of value-added tax (VAT) between his state and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

Wike said this on Friday at the presentation of a book titled ‘Contemporary Essays on Law & Practice’, held in honour of Anwuri Chikere, retired judge of the federal high court.

The FIRS and some state governments are currently embroiled in a legal tussle over VAT collection.

Rivers and Lagos state governments had enacted laws and called for decentralisation of collection, while some states want centralised collection.

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But in September, a court of appeal directed the states to maintain status quo pending the determination of an appeal filed by the FIRS.

Not satisfied with the injunction, the Rivers state government filed the matter before the supreme court. No date has been fixed for the hearing of the case at the apex court.

Wike said although the entire country is waiting for the final decision of the VAT suit at the apex court, the delay had allowed the federal government to keep collecting the tax.

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He said the case had enormous constitutional implications and should be addressed succinctly.

According to him, the judiciary is the ultimate guardian of the nation’s constitution and protector of rule of law, which should play out in the resolution of the VAT dispute.

“While the entire country is waiting for its speedy resolution in the national interest, the Supreme Court of Nigeria remains lethargic in hearing this very important matter thereby unjustifiably aiding the Federal Government to continue to enforce its illegal and oppressive VAT policy on the polity,” he said.

The governor said judicial independence suffered greatly when judges were subjected to summary trials and preconceived indictments by an all-powerful quasi-judicial agency on the promptings of persons or parties with vested interest in the outcome of the litigation processes.

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He lamented that the National Judicial Council (NJC) is becoming a willing tool to intimidate judges who are simply discharging their constitutional duties.

By doing so, he said, the NJC might be joining the league of unholy forces now assailing the independence and reputation of judicial officers across the country.

“My candid opinion is that the National Judicial Council must thread with utmost caution in matters of judicial complaints and discipline lest it wittingly or unwittingly turns itself into another bully to be feared rather than being respected in its roles as both the headmaster and guardian angel of the nation’s judiciary,” he added.

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