Legal action has been filed against the Kogi State Government by the telecommunications company, MTN Nigeria. This follows the closure of the telecoms’ facility by the State government last week.
MTN Nigeria’s Corporate Relations Executive, Tobechukwu Okigbo, on Tuesday, said the company has filed a lawsuit of N5 million damages, with the Attorney-General of Kogi State and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) also named as parties to the suit.
Nairametrics had reported last week that the Kogi State government had shut down the facility over failure to pay tax obligations of N120 million to the state government. Barrister Jamil Isah, the Director, Legal Services and Enforcement of the Kogi State Revenue Service, said MTN had been uncooperative in meeting its tax obligations.
But despite the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) making it known that the regulator intends to intervene in the issue, MTN Nigeria has taken its case to court to seek redress.
MTN Nigeria’s stance
In the latest development, Okigbo said MTN Nigeria resulted in legal action against the state government due to the shutdown and confiscation of telecommunications properties and equipment of the firm.
“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 Jan. 23.
“This act of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants has greatly affected the business and fortunes of the plaintiff, ’’ Okigbo said in a statement.
MTN Nigeria’s case in court is to request a declaration that nullifies the shutdown and declare that the parties involved did not have the power to perform such acts in the first place, and unseal and release to MTN all its equipment and property.
Jurisdiction over telecoms regulations
MTN Nigeria insist the Kogi State Government doesn’t have the jurisdiction regarding regulating the telecommunications companies in Nigeria, arguing that the Federal Government had the sole authority, NAN stated. Adding that the act of the 1st to 3rd defendants was unconstitutional as it exceeded the competence of the defendants; thereby classifying the action of the state government as unconstitutional, and must be put to an end.
“The company has 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.
“MTN has provided Kogi State Internal Revenue Service (KGIRS) with documentary evidence on multiple occasions to prove its tax compliance.
“MTN remains committed to operating in the state and working with relevant regulatory authorities in reaching a lasting resolution, ‘’ Okigbo said.