The absence of a witness for the Attorney General of the Federation on Wednesday forced the Federal High Court in Lagos to adjourn till October for hearing of a suit filed by MTN Nigeria Communication Limited against the AGF over N242bn and $1.3bn import duties and withholding tax assessments.
The telecommunications company, in the suit instituted by a writ, had challenged the legality of the AGF’s assessment of import duties, withholding tax and value added tax amounting to N242bn and $1.3bn. At the Wednesday proceedings, counsel for the AGF, Tolu Mokolu, told the court that their witness could not appear in court as he had some challenges in Abuja. Mokolu also said the lead counsel, Tijani Gazali, was also held up in Abuja, urging the court to grant an adjournment. Counsel for the telecoms firm, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), said neither would he oppose the request nor ask for cost. Justice Chukwukekwu Aneke then adjourned the case till October 29, 31 for trial. In a statement on Wednesday, MTN said it had faith in the Nigerian court system and was ready to present its case whenever the opportunity arose. The company insisted that it was in “full compliance with all extant tax and regulatory obligations. We reiterate our commitment to obeying all Nigerian laws, rules and regulations that govern and guide our business practices.” MTN is seeking a declaration that the AGF’s demand was premised on a process which was malicious, unreasonable and illegal. It is also seeking a declaratory relief that the purported revenue asset investigation carried out by the Federal Government between 2007 and 2017, and its decision conveyed through the office of the AGF in a letter dated August 20, 2018, violated the provisions of Section 36 of the Nigerian Constitution. It also sought a declaration that the AGF acted in excess of his powers by demanding payment of import duties on the importation of physical goods. The company wants a declaration that the AGF acted illegally by usurping the powers of the Federal Inland Revenue Service to audit and demand the remittance of withholding tax and value added tax and declaration that the purported self-assessment exercise instituted by the AGF via a letter dated May 10, 2018, is unknown to law, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.