THE Federal Government has filed a preliminary objection to a suit by MTN Nigeria Communication Ltd.
It is urging the Federal High Court in Lagos to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction.
MTN had sued the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) for demanding N242 billion and $1.3 billion as import duties and withholding tax assessments from it.
A Senior State Counsel at the Federal Ministry of Justice Mr. Terhemba Agbe, informed Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke yesterday that the respondent filed the objection last November 7.
He said it has been served on the plaintiff, who filed a reply to the objection, but which he was yet to receive.
By a September 10, 2018 writ, MTN is challenging the legality of the AGF’s assessment of the import duties, withholding tax and value-added tax.
But, the AGF, in the preliminary objection, is arguing that the suit was statute-barred, thus robbing the court of jurisdiction.
The respondent said the plaintiff ought to have filed the suit three months from the date of the cause of action arose.
The AGF is contending that the suit disregarded Section 2 of the Public Officers Protection Act, which provides that any lawsuit against a public officer must be within three months of what was complained of.
The respondent is praying the court to hold that MTN’s failure to comply with the provision strips the court of jurisdiction to entertain the action.
MTN is seeking a declaration that the AGF’s demand of N242 billion and $1.3 billion from it is premised on a process that is malicious, unreasonable and based on incorrect legal reasons.
The plaintiff said the purported “revenue assets investigation” carried out by the Federal Government for the period of 2007 – 2017 violated Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution.
MTN is praying the court to declare that the AGF acted in excess of his powers by directing a “self-assessment exercise”, which usurps the powers of the Nigerian Customs Service to demand duties on imported physical goods.
It is seeking a declaration that the AGF acted illegally by also usurping the powers of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to audit and demand remittance of withholding tax and value-added tax.
The plaintiff wants declaration that the purported “self-assessment” exercise instituted by the AGF via its letter of last May 10 is unknown to law, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
MTN is further praying the court for an order vacating the AGF’s demand letter.
It is claiming N3 billion as general and exemplary damages as well as legal costs from the Federal Government.
Justice Aneke adjourned until March 26 for hearing.