VAT: Appeal Court reserves ruling on Lagos joinder application

The Abuja division of the Court of Appeal on Thursday reserved ruling on the application filed by Lagos State Government to join in an appeal by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) against the judgement of a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, giving legal backings to the Rivers State Government to collect the Value Added Tax and Personal Income Tax (PIT) in the state.

Justice Haruna Tsanammi, presiding over the 3-man panel of the appellate court, reserved ruling after parties had argued and exchanged legal processes for and against the joinder application filed by the Attorney General of Lagos State.

In his submissions on Thursday, the Attorney General of Lagos State, Moyosore Onibanjo, SAN, urged the court to join the state as a respondent in the appeal.

Making reference to a number of case laws, Onibanjo added having satisfied the condition precedents for joinder, the state is entitled to join in the legal dispute as an interested party.

He noted that specifically that the interest of the state will be legally or financially affected by the outcome of the appeal.

He further submitted that the party seeking to be joined will be bound by the decision arising from the action.

Onibanjo equally argued that the Constitution empowers states as federating units to collect taxes, insisting that the Federal Inland Revenue Service themselves in their counter affidavit recognised that Lagos State is an interested party.

The appellant (FIRS), according to Onibanjo made allegations against Lagos State Government, and therefore it was not out of place for the applicant to be joined.

He argued further that in accordance with Section 36 of the Constitution, Lagos State should be accorded an opportunity to defend the allegations in the spirit of a fair hearing.

‘You cannot shave a man’s head at his back,’ the Lagos AG posited.

He also contended that the joinder application seeks to avoid multiplicity of suits since Lagos State already has a law empowering it to collect VAT.

‘It was in recognition of the interest of Lagos State that this court made an order for status quo to be maintained by all parties before it,’ Onibanjo argued.

‘In view of the inconsistencies contained in the counter affidavit of the appellant, I pray the court to grant our application in favour of Lagos State,’ the Attorney General said.

Reacting, Ifedayo Adedipe, SAN, counsel for the 1st respondent (Rivers State) aligned himself with the submission of the Lagos AG.

An effort by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, who is the 2nd respondent, to oppose the joinder application was rejected as being incompetent.

Represented by Tijani Gazali, SAN, an Acting Director (Civil Appeals) in the Federal Ministry of Justice, the court agreed with the objection raised by the Lagos AG that the AGF did not file a counter-affidavit and his purported written address was filed out of time.

On his part, Mahmud Magaji, SAN, counsel to the appellant, urged the court not to join Lagos State Government in the appeal.

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