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Tax Tribunal Affirms Jurisdiction, Orders Niger State Internal Revenue to Enter Defense within 14 Days

The North Central Zone (Jos) of the Tax Appeal Tribunal has dismissed the preliminary objection filed by the Niger State Board of Internal Revenue challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal in an appeal brought by First Bank of Nigeria for lacking merit.

The panel led by Richard Bala affirmed the Jurisdiction of the tribunal and ordered the Niger State Board of Internal Revenue to enter defense within 14 days.

From facts, the Respondent- Niger State Board of Internal Revenue had challenged the jurisdiction of the Tribunal to hear and determine the First Bank of Nigeria appeal brought against its decision after several correspondences between the parties on the alleged fine of N43,000,000 (revised to N31,500,000) for failure to file monthly returns of new individual customers for the period covering 2011 to 2021 tax years.

The First Bank of Nigeria based its appeal on the ground that the fine of N59,000,000, revised to N43,000,000, and Notice of refusal to amend were baseless, unfounded, arbitrary, illegal null, and void, and liable to be set aside among others.

In defense, the Respondent- Niger State Board of Internal Revenue based its motion on the grounds that the Appellant’s appeal was premature, that failure to comply with sections 49(1) and (3) PITA constituted an offense, and the notices of demand served on the Appellant and all correspondences were preparatory to the institution of criminal action against the Appellant and the Tribunal lacks the jurisdictional competence to adjudicate on criminal matters or appeal.

In response, the Appellant- First Bank of Nigeria further averred that it had paid N2,200,000 as fine for the period 2011 to 2016, insisting that the Tax Agency had elected to collect fine rather than prosecution and that the dispute was about the amount of fine payable; a cause which the Tribunal is vested with jurisdiction, urged the tribunal to dismiss the objection in the interest of justice.

The Tribunal In its considered ruling at a panel headed by Richard Umar Bala Esq as Chairman, Zaidu Abdullahi, Ukera Emmanuel, Ogbaenyi Chikwendu, and Saidu Ahmed as members held that until the Tribunal has come to the conclusion of “possible criminality” in the course of its due adjudication and on the basis of the evidence before it in the appeal, it remains deemed to be sitting in its civil capacity.

“In the circumstance, the Tribunal finds that it is vested with the requisite jurisdiction. The Respondent’s Preliminary objection is hereby refused. Respondent is accordingly ordered to enter its defense within 14 days from the date of this ruling.” Tribunal ruled.


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