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FG, Lagos on collision course over $1.52bn maritime tariffs



FG, Lagos on collision course over $1.52bn maritime tariffs

Contrary to expectations, the Federal Government (FG) has insisted that the Lagos state government must refund to it, an estimated $1.52 billion believed to have been paid by importers and exporters using the Lagos ports.

Following a law passed in 2009 by the House of Assembly, with Babatunde Fashola, now the Minister for Power, Works and Housing, as state governor, levies varying from N1,000 to N3,000 on consignments transported from Lagos ports were imposed on anyone that has business with the wharf.

The cumulative amount of such revenue is said to have been computed by the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) today to over N350 billion, with current exchange rate having it at $1.52bn.

This generated a lot of row leading to the then Goodluck Jonathan-led administration taking the case to the Supreme Court, asking the apex court to declare the Lagos State Wharf Landing Fees Law No 5 of 2009 unconstitutional and to order the state to refund all the monies collected through it.

But after intervention by some leaders, it was agreed that amicable solution be sought on the matter.

However, an official of the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation said there had not been any positive sign from Lagos to settle the case out of court.

Read also: MERGER: Tension grips Customs, FIRS over job losses

“As I speak with you, the case is being listed for hearing on Monday and all parties to the dispute had been duly notified, “he told Ripples Nigeria at the weekend in a phone chat.

If the case goes in favour of the central government, the refund is to be carried out in such a way that it would not affect development of the business nerve of the country, of which status Lagos has assumed, he added.

It means that refund could be done through direct deduction from the Federation Allocation Account.

However, Mr. Debo Olarinwaju, one of the lawyers handling the case since its inception, said the court is an open-ended institution.

“There is no need jumping the gun, the pendulum can swing either side; mind you that we are going to the Supreme Court whose judgment has no appeal, so we are prepared,” he said.

But many analysts say they had thought that given the political development, which has seen both the central and Lagos governments run by the same political party, more of an out-of-court settlement option could have been exploited.

By Emma Eke….

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