Justice Akintayo Aluko of the Federal High Court in Lagos has declared that, ‘The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has no constitutional powers to assume the statutory powers for the assessment, collection and enforcement of payment of taxes in Nigeria’.
Justice Aluko also declared that it is only the Federal Internal Revenue Service (FIRS) that is empowered by the law and it is vested with statutory duty for assessment, collection and enforcement of company tax in Nigeria.
The judge made the declarations while delivering judgment in a suit brought before her by a firm, Wheatbaker Investment and Properties Limited (operator of Wheatbaker Hotel) against the EFCC and FIRS.
Wheatbaker Investment and Properties Limited had urged the court to interpret the relevant provisions of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (Establishment) Act, 2007 and the Taxes and Levies (Approved List for Collection) Act, 1998.
The Plaintiff had also urged the court for a declaration that it is illegal for the EFCC to assume the statutory powers for the assessment, collection and enforcement of payment of taxes in Nigeria contrary to the combined provisions and effects of Section 8 of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (Establishment) Act, 2007 and Section 2(1) of the Taxes under Levies (Approved List for Collection) Act, 1998.
“A declaration that any attempt by EFCC to subject the Plaintiff to any form of tax assessment for computing and enforcing payment of tax is ultra vires its powers under the relevant laws of state in Nigeria.
But the EFCC had opposed the suit by arguing that it is statutorily empowered to conduct an investigation and prosecute all economic and financial crimes to identify determines, corporate bodies or groups involved and determine the extent of financial loss and such other losses by the government, private individuals or organizations.
The anti-graft agency had also submitted that ‘being a special creation of the law’, was given statutory powers to investigate economic and financial crimes and arrest and apprehend perpetrators of such crimes.
In determining the suit, Justice Aluko after legally examining all the processes filed by parties, the arguments canvassed by their lawyers, and citing a plethora of authorities, resolved all the issues in favour of the plaintiff.
The judge held, “I have examined the affidavit evidence and documentary exhibits before the court. What is in contention is the correct and true interpretation of the provisions of section 8 of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (Establishment) Act, 2007 and section 2(1) of the Taxes and Levies (Approved List for Collection) Act, 1998 over who between the first and second defendants, has the statutory mandate and responsibility to undertake the assessment, enforcement and collection of taxes on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria.’’