Tax Appeal Tribunal Affirms Jurisdiction on Levies, Taxes Made by National Assembly, Dismisses Prelim Objection

The Tax Appeal Tribunal, South-South Zone, Benin has dismissed the preliminary objection filed by Akwa Ibom State Internal Revenue Service challenging its jurisdiction to hear and determine the appeal filed by Stanbic IBTC Bank for lacking merit.

The tribunal headed by Prof. Obehi Odiase-Alegimenlen and 4 other commissioners held that the Honorable Tribunal is clothed with the powers to entertain all cases arising from the Taxes made from time to time by the National Assembly.

From facts, the Appellant- Stanbic IBTC Bank had alleged that the Akwa Ibom State Internal Revenue Service without any parameter has incorrectly assessed the sum of N110,613,780.00 (One Hundred and Ten Million, Six Hundred and Thirteen Thousand, Seven Hundred and Eighty Naira) only as levies/rates/charges and Mast/Tower/Vsat related payment on sites deployed in Akwa-Ibom State from 2010 – 2020.

In defense, the respondent- Akwa Ibom State Internal Revenue Service filed a Notice of Preliminary Objection seeking an Order of the Tribunal to strike out the Appeal for want of Jurisdiction on the grounds that the taxes and levies in question are accruable to the Government of Akwa Ibom State and not to the Federal Government of Nigeria, and added that Stanbic IBTC has not fulfilled the condition precedent for the filing of the action against the State Revenue Service.

In response, the learned counsel to Stanbic IBTC contended that the agency Statutorily authorized to demand and collect Levies/Rates/Charges on Mast/Tower/Vsat is the Nigerian Communication Commission and does not need to fulfill any condition precedent; urged the Court to dismiss the objection in its entirety.

In its considered ruling, the tribunal panel headed by Prof. Obehi Odiase-Alegimenlen and 4 other commissioners affirmed the jurisdiction of the tribunal to hear and determine the appeal and dismissed the Akwa Ibom State Revenue Service objection for lacking merit.

The Tribunal ruled that by the combined reading of Section 70, 89 (3e) and Section 134 (4) of the Communications Act (2003), it is the Nigerian Communications Commission that is charged with the Responsibility to regulate the Rates, Terms, and Conditions for access to any post, and network facilities relating to communication.

The Hon. Commissioners unanimously held that Akwa Ibom State Internal Revenue Service was in grave error or misunderstanding of the law on the interpretation that the Levies being demanded from the Stanbic IBTC were covered by a State Law.

The Tribunal affirmed that Section 11 (1) (vi) of the Federal Inland Revenue Service(Establishment) Act 2007 provides the Honorable Tribunal with the power to adjudicate on disputes and controversies arising from law contained in or specified in the first schedule or other laws made by or to be made from time to time by the National Assembly among others.

“Having established that the Levies/Rates/Charges on Mast/Tower/Vsat is covered and regulated by the Nigerian Communications Commission a body established by the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 (an enactment of the National Assembly) the Appellant/Respondent are not bound by the provisions of 5. 49(1) of Akwa-Ibom State Revenue Administration Law and so have not violated any condition precedent to the institution of this matter before this Honorable Tribunal.” The Tribunal ruled.

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