By Francis IWUCHUKWU
LAGOS, NIGERIA – Justice Ayokunle Faji of a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos State, Nigeria, has declared that the Finance Minister has no power(s) to amend the Taxes and Levies (Approved List for Collection) Act 2004.
Instead, the judge upheld the argument of The Registered Trustees of Hotel Owners and Managers Association that, “only the National Assembly can amend laws. No other body can do so.”
Justice Ayokunke Faji further declared that “any purported amendment” to the Act by the Minister, “is null, void and unconstitutional.”
Defendants in the action are the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Finance.
It would be recalled that the Nigerian government through the former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had on May 26, 2015, amended the Schedule to the Act following pressure to harmonise taxes and levies payable in Nigeria.
In specific terms, the said amendment introduced “a taxing power” to state governments over “inter alia: Hotels, Restaurants or event centres’ consumption tax, where applicable.”
But the Registered Trustees of Hotel Owners and Managers Association, whose members in Lagos State are charged with the responsibility of collecting consumption tax from its customers on behalf of the government, embarked on a legal war designated FHC/UCS/1082/19, wherein it confronted the Minister’s action.
Justice Ayokunle Faji agreed with Bello Salihu, counsel to the plaintiff, amongst others that the amendment “…affects the business of Plaintiff and its members particularly as regards payment of taxes.”
The judge said: “It affects them directly. It seems to me that they are entitled to challenge a law which seeks to determine the point of payment of tax as regards their business if they think that law is unconstitutional.”
While granting all the prayers pushed forward by the plaintiff, the court declared that: “By virtue of Section 4 of the Constitution, the legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are vested in the National Assembly.
“The Minister of Finance, being a member of the executive arm of government, lacks the constitutional power, and legislative competence to amend an Act of the National Assembly or any part thereof.
“Section 121 of the Taxes and Levies (Approved List for collection Act Cap T2 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 which vests the Minister of Finance with the power to amend the schedule to the Taxes and Levies Approved list for Collection) Act is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution, and therefore, unconstitutional, null and void.
“Any purported amendment to the taxes and levies (Approved List for collection Act Cap T2 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 by the Minister of Finance…including but not limited to the ones and Levies (Approved List for collection) Act (Amendment) Order, 2015 is illegal constitutional, null and void.”