The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal on Friday joined the Attorney General (AG) of Lagos State, Mr N. J. Onigbanjo (SAN) as an interested party in an appeal against the judgment of a Federal High Court, Rivers which gave the right of collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) to Rivers State in place of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), which hitherto have been collecting the money.
The appellate court joined the Lagos AG, while delivering ruling in his application for joinder.
According to the ruling by Justice Haruna Tsammani, the application was granted to enable the AG ventilate his interest in the matter, particularly since the appellant had made some allegations against him.
The Rivers State Government had last month secured a major court victory over the federal government in the collection of VAT in the state.
Justice Stephen Pam of a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt had, in a judgment delivered on August 9, held that the Rivers State Government and not the FIRS, has the right to collect VAT, Personal Income Tax in the state.
Justice Pam, in the judgment subsequently restrained the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and FIRS (1st and 2nd defendants) from collecting VAT in Rivers and directed the Rivers State Government to take charge of the duty.
As a result of the court’s decision, the Lagos State Government commenced a move to stop the collection of VAT by the FIRS in the state.
Miffed by the decision of the trial court and also the move by Lagos State, the FIRS approached the Court of Appeal for an order staying the judgment of Justice Pam and another order restraining the Rivers State Government from collecting VAT in the state.
When the case was called on Friday, after the parties announced appearance, the AG of Lagos stood up to inform the court of his application seeking to be joined as a party.
According to him, he would be prejudiced if the court go ahead to hear the application for stay and interlocutory injunction excluding him from the hearing.
The counsel to the first respondent, Chief Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), in supporting the Lagos AG’s application, informed the panel that part of the affidavit evidence of the applicant (FIRS) in seeking for a stay of the Federal High Court judgment is because the Lagos State Government is purporting to execute the judgment.
Ukala added that in the interest of justice, the application should be granted.
However, both lawyers to the FIRS, Mr Mahmud Magaji (SAN) and AGF’s lawyer, Mr Tijani Gazali, opposed the application for joinder and urged the panel to give preference to the appellant’s application for stay.
Gazali had argued that what is before the court is an application for stay and not the main appeal.
Delivering ruling in the application to be joined, the presiding judge, Justice Haruna Tsammani, held that the right of the Lagos AG to be heard is paramount and accordingly ordered that he be joined as a party in the suit.
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