Nearly one year after Nigeria’s interior ministry increased the Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Alien Card (CERPAC) fee, a federal court in Lagos has nullified the review.
The cancellation followed a suit by the lawyer, Femi Falana.
In the ruling delivered in November but just obtained by Naija247news, the judge, Rilwanu Aikawa of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court, also declared as unconstitutional the contract between the interior ministry and Continental Transfert Technique Ltd, or Contec, for the collection of the CERPAC fee.
Mr Aikama ruled that only the Nigeria Immigration Service is lawfully empowered to collect such fees.
“While Section 102 of the Immigration Act provides for private sector participation in the development and provision of infrastructure, there is no provision as far as I can discern which allows for the participation of the private sector in the collection of residence permit or visa fees,” the judge held.
In Nigeria, CERPAC is mandatory for expatriates. It allows them to live and work in the country. It is renewable annually or every two years depending on the validity of the period given.
The interior ministry, under former minister Abdurahman Dambazau, reviewed the fees for the card from $1,000 to $2,000 on December 13, 2018, following a request by Contec two days earlier.
That was without a prior warning to foreign nationals and, as such, many of them were reportedly surprised at the banks they had visited to pay for renewals.
Also in December 2018, the ministry and the company reviewed the sharing formula for the collected revenues: 55 per cent to the company, 33 per cent to the federal government, five per cent to the ministry of interior and seven per cent to the NIS.
But following the reviews, Mr Falana sued the company, interior ministry and the immigration service after nothing came of his petition the finance ministry.
The judge upheld Mr Falana’s position that the minister lacked the power “whatsoever” to increase the fee without a money bill presented by the president and passed by the National Assembly.
“Although Section of the Immigration Act gives the minister the power to review the visa fees without the legislature,” the judge noted but added that runs contrary to Section 59 of the Constitution.
“Any law, a statute or provision thereof that runs riot and violent to the provision of the Constitution or is in conflict with the Constitutional is null and void to the extent of the inconsistency,” the judge held.
He further declared that all fees collected from expatriates in Nigeria shall be paid into Federation Account in line with the provision of Section 162 of the Constitution.
All the preliminary objectives against the suit, including the standing Mr Falana and the jurisdiction of the court, were dismissed.