The Rivers state government has headed to Supreme court in the ongoing legal battle over the collection of the Value Added Tax (VAT) between the federal government and state governments.

In the suit, the Rivers government is seeking to upturn the Court of Appeal ruling that has ordered the warring parties to maintain status quo in the dispute.

The state government is arguing that the appellate court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the oral application for the maintenance of status quo made by the counsel for the Federal Inland Revenue Service (the 1st Respondent herein) 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.”

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The Rivers government also argued that by the reason of the ruling, the Appeal court has only restored the parties to the position they were before the judgment of the Federal High Court in FHC/PH/CS/149/2020 was delivered on 9th August 2021.”

On August 9, the Rivers state government obtained the go-ahead to collect VAT and Personal Income Tax in the state by the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt led by Justice Stephen Pam. The court had ruled that the state and not FIRS should collect the taxes.

The court also issued an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Attorney General of the federation, both first and second defendants in the suit, from collecting, demanding, threatening and intimidating residents of Rivers State to pay to FIRS, personnel income tax and Value Added Tax.

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But disgruntled with the said judgment, the FIRS approached the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal with a motion for a stay of execution of the judgment and on Friday last week, the Court held that parties should refrain from giving effect to the judgment of the trial court in Port Harcourt pending the hearing and determination of the application of the FIRS to stay execution of the trial court’s judgment.

The case was adjourned to Thursday, September 16.

But in a 10-grounds of appeal, the Rivers state government, through its lead counsel, Emmanuel Ukala (SAN) has urged the Supreme Court to set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal and to equally dismissed the oral application by the FIRS, arguing that the appellate court “erred in law when they wrongly assumed jurisdiction to entertain the oral application for the maintenance of status quo.”

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Consequent upon its appeal, the state government has equally filed a motion for the stay of execution of the order for the maintenance of status quo ante bellum pending the hearing and determination of its appeal at the Supreme Court.

The claimant is then asking the apex court to order a new panel of justices of the Appeal court other than those that granted the order for the maintenance of status quo ante belium to hear and determine the appeal lodged by the FIRS again.

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