A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has rejected the notice of preliminary objection filed by Nigeria’s Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN), in response to the lawsuit instituted by the telecommunications company, MTN.
The court, presided over by the Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, had heard arguments on the AGF’s preliminary objection on March 26, 2019.
At the time, the AGF requested that MTN’s suit be dismissed because it was not filed within the appropriate timeframe, which was asserted to be within three months of receipt of the initial request for a self-assessment.
In dismissing the objection, the judge determined that MTN’s suit was not statute-barred as the company was required to file its case within three months of receipt of the actual demand notice. This was established to have been fulfilled.
It would be recalled that MTN took the legal action after receiving a demand notice from the AGF alleging unpaid duties and taxes between 2007 and 2017.
In September 2018, the AGF had demanded that MTN settle arrears of N242 billion and $1.3 billion import duties and withholding tax.
The MTN suit challenges the authority of the AGF to deal with issues around tax and customs duties.
MTN, in a statement on Tuesday, maintains that it is fully compliant with Nigerian tax laws, noting that according to the law, oversight for tax and customs duties issues is the responsibility of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) respectively.
“It is important to note that even if the court ultimately rules that the AGF is within its rights to assess taxes and duties, it does not imply that the assessment that has been made is legitimate.
“The company remains committed to meeting its fiscal responsibilities and contributing to the social and economic development of Nigeria.
“Since incorporation in 2001, MTN has invested more than NGN2 trillion into the Nigerian economy and has paid more than NGN 1.7 trillion in taxes, levies and other regulatory fees,” the statement added.
The substantive case is scheduled to be heard on June 26.