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MTN Nigeria seeks court intervention in Kogi State government’s tax issue

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MTN and Kogi State

By: Yinka Okeowo

MTN Nigeria has instituted an action against the Kogi State Government following the shutdown and confiscation of its properties and equipments by the Kogi State Board of Internal Revenue.

Recall that the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) had advised MTN to pay the sum of N50million and seek redress in court.

Tobechukwu Okigbo, Corporate Relations Executive, MTN Nigeria in a statement on Tuesday, stated that the Attorney General of Kogi State and the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) were also named as parties to the suit.

He noted that the company contends in its summons that by virtue of the provisions of Sections 4(2) and 5(1) and Item 46 Part 1 of the Second Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), only the Federal Government and its organs/agencies can either legislate or take any executive action affecting the business interest of the telecommunications company.

In the suit, filed at the Federal High Court in Lokoja, the Kogi state capital, the firm argued that its licence to operate in the state was rightfully granted by the NCC. “Despite the compliance by MTN with all requirements and conditions for the grant of the licence by the constitutionally empowered organ, the NCC, the Plaintiff’s (MTN) business premises and equipment were invaded by officers and men of the Kogi State Internal Revenue Service, who shut down and confiscated the business premises and equipment of the Plaintiff on 23rd January 2019.

This act of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Defendants has greatly affected the business and fortunes of the Plaintiff”, the court papers say.

“MTN submitted that the Kogi State was not at liberty to usurp powers belonging to the Federal Government with respect to regulating telecommunications companies.

The act of the 1st – 3rd Defendants is unconstitutional as it exceeds the competence of the Defendants and this unconstitutional exercise of powers must with due respect, be stopped.”

It is asking the court for a declaration that the acts of shutting down the base stations be deemed unconstitutional, null and void, and a declaration that the parties involved did not have the power to perform such acts in the first place.

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Amongst other reliefs, damages amounting to 5 million naira is being sought, including an order directing the defendants to unseal and release to the MTN all its equipment and property.

Okigbo, further noted that the company had fulfilled all tax obligations.

“To the best of our knowledge, the Minister of Finance’s recommendation as provided in the Act is yet to be issued, and as such, it is unclear if the imposition of the fee by the Kogi State Government is on a solid legal footing.

“As a responsible corporate citizen, we accord the highest priority to our sub-national tax commitments.

“We wish to state that we have met in full all our tax obligations to the Kogi State government and are not in arrears,” he said.

He added that the company has provided the KGIRS with documentary evidence on multiple occasions to prove its tax compliance and remains committed to operating in the state and working with relevant regulatory authorities in reaching a lasting resolution.

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