As a tax-related legal battle between telecommunication firm, MTN Nigeria Communication Limited, and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, gathers momentum, the telco on Tuesday transported a 9,100-page document to court in a bid to prove its N3bn claim against the AGF.
Several copies of the extraordinarily bulky document were brought in a Coaster bus and delivered to the registry of the Federal High Court in Lagos.
MTN sued Malami last year in protest against an August 20, 2018 letter in which the AGF demanded that the telecom firm pay N242bn and $1.3bn as import duties, withholding and value added taxes.
The firm’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), described the AGF’s N242bn and $1.3bn demand from MTN as “malicious, unreasonable and one made on an incorrect legal basis.”
Olanipekun said in writing the demand letter to MTN, Malami acted beyond his powers and violated the provisions of Section 36 of the constitution on fair hearing with “the purported revenue assets investigation” he carried out on the firm’s activities covering 2007 to 2017.
He is, on behalf of MTN, urging the court to award N3bn against Malami as general and exemplary damages.
Justice C.J. Aneke, who is hearing the case, had in May dismissed the preliminary objection filed by Malami, challenging the competence of the suit.
Justice Aneke rejected the AGF’s argument that the suit was not filed within three months of cause of action and was statute barred.
“From the endorsement on the writ, this suit was commenced on September 10, 2018 and a simple calculation shows that from August 23, 2018 when the cause of action arose to September 10, 2018, when the suit was instituted, a period of three months had not expired, as envisaged, for the suit to be statute barred,” the judge held as he declined the AGF’s prayer to strike out the suit.
Meanwhile, the Tuesday’s proceedings in the case were stalled as counsel sought an adjournment.
Justice Aneke adjourned till January 30, 2020.
In the suit, MTN, through Olanipekun, is urging the court to declare that the AGF acted illegally by “usurping the powers of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, to audit and demand remittance of withholding tax and value added tax.”
The firm also wants the court to declare that with the “self assessment exercise,” the AGF usurped the powers of the Nigerian Customs Service to demand payment of import duties on importation of goods.
It wants the court to declare that “the purported self assessment” conducted by the AGF was “unknown to law, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.”