Wike seeks nullification of Appeal Court’s ‘stay of execution order’ on VAT collection

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The Rivers State government on Tuesday filed a case at the Supreme Court asking it to set aside the “maintain status quo” order  given last week by the Court of Appeal to enable him implement the state law which empowers it to collect the value added tax.

Recall that the Appeal Court had had ordered parties ordered parties to maintain Status Quo in a suit seeking to determine who has the right to collect VAT in the state.

The order followed the ruling of Justice Stephen Pam of a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt on August 9, who held that the Rivers State government and not the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) had the right to collect VAT and personal income tax in the state.

The judge subsequently restrained the attorney general of the federation and FIRS (1st and 2nd defendants) from collecting VAT in Rivers and directed the state government to take charge of the duty.

However, in a ruling on September 10, the Appeal Court ordered all parties that had submitted themselves before the court to maintain status quo ante bellum pending the hearing of an application seeking to stay the judgment of the Federal High Court which restrained FIRS from collecting VAT in Rivers State.

But Rivers State Government yesterday asked the Supreme Court to reverse the September 10 order by directing parties in the dispute over the administration of VAT to maintain status quo ante bellum.

In a notice of appeal filed in the name of its attorney general, Rivers State also wants the Supreme Court to order the Court of Appeal to assemble a separate panel to hear the appeal, marked: CA/PH/282/2021 filed against the earlier judgment of the Federal High Court, Port-Harcourt, by the FIRS.

In the notice of appeal filed for Rivers by a legal team led by Mr. Emmanuel Ukala, the appellant raised 10 grounds in support of its prayers.

Rivers said it was dissatisfied with the decision of the Appeal Court, said “directing parties to maintain status quo, that is, to restore parties to the status quo that existed before the judgment of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt division in suit: FHC/PH/CS/149/2020.”

According to the applicant, the Appeal Court justices, who gave the September 10 order, erred in law when they relied on Section 6(6) of the Constitution and the court’s inherent jurisdiction to order parties to maintain status quo, “which they identified as restoring the parties to the position they were before the judgment of the Federal High Court.”

The state said the judges applied the principle governing the exercise of inherent jurisdiction laid down by the Supreme Court in Shugaba vs. Union Bank (1999) 11 NWLR (pt. 627) 459 to the effect that no court had an inherent jurisdiction (except in extreme circumstance) to set aside the exercise of discretion of another court with regard to order made in respect of application for a stay of execution.

It contended, in ground two, that the Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law when they wrongly assumed jurisdiction to entertain the oral application for maintenance made by lawyer to the FIRS “in spite of the fact that a condition precedent to the invocation of the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal was not fulfilled by the first respondent (FIRS).

The appellant added that the Court of Appeal failed to appreciate that failure to comply with the condition precedent robbed the court of the requisite jurisdiction to entertain or grant the reliefs sought.

It contended in ground three that the Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law and breached its (the appellant’s) right of fair hearing when they entertained a vague oral application for maintenance of status quo and went ahead to make orders aimed at maintaining the status quo ante bellum.

in ground four, it contended that the “Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law when, in spite of a behemoth of binding precedents on what status quo ante bellum is, they went ahead and made orders for maintenance of status quo ante bellum, without due regard to the undeniable fact that judgment had already been entered in favour of the appellant and which had the practical effect of upturning a valid judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction and its order refusing to grant an injunction pending appeal, at a time when the Court of Appeal was yet to hear the appeal.”

It also contended in ground five that the justices erred in law by granting an order for the maintenance of status quo ante bellum, which amounted “effectively to an order for stay of execution and injunction against the declaratory orders of the Federal High Court, on an oral application by the appellant, pending the hearing of the various applications before it, and thus occasioned a miscarriage of justice, to the prejudice of the first respondent -now appellant – (Rivers State).

With The Nation report

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