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Constitutional and Human Rights lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, has called on the Federal Inland Revenue Service((FIRS) and the Rivers State Government to cease hostilities on the issue of the collection of VAT in the light of the order of the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal, Abuja division, ruled that both parties maintained the status quo in an appeal filed by the FIRS against the judgement of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, which earlier validated the Rivers State law on VAT collection.

The law which had since take effect in River State, empowers the state government to collect VAT as against the FIRS that had hitherto collected VAT.

But the FIRS had appealed the judgment of the lower court, arguing that the Rivers State Government could not collect VAT based on a law passed by the state House of Assembly.

Shedding light on the status quo order of the appeal court, Chief Ozwkhome said the said law was already duly passed and made operational by Rivers State House of Assembly that has the constitutional competency under section 4 of the Constitution to do so.

He noted that the Federsl High Court, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, had earlier held that it was the Rivers State Government that was competent to collect VAT, not the FIRS.

“The aw was already therefore in operation before the FIRS challenged the validity of a FHC judgement, PH, that had given the Rivers State Government the power to collect the VAT,” he said.

“So, the status quo is that it is the Rivers State Government that has the power to collect VAT, until perhaps, the Court of Appeal rules otherwise and set aside the FHC judgment.

“However, the Court of Appeal ruled that all parties on the matter ( including the FIRS, Attorney General of the Federation and the Lagos State Government that sought to be joined should maintain the status quo, so as to preserve the res and prevent the FHC judgment from being negatively affected.

“Consequently, to avoid unnecessary bickerings and needless head-on collision between the Attorney General of the Federation, the Federal Government ( which owns the FIRS) and the Rivers State Government in a matter that is already subjudice, I will advise that both the Rivers State Government and the FIRS should both cease hostilities for now and maintain the status quo until the Court of Appeal finally pronounces on the matter.”

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