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Unlawful road tax: Transport groups in Akwa-Ibom battle state internal revenue service, commissioner in court

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Commercial road transport operators in Akwa Ibom State under the aegis of Akwa Progressive Commercial Tricyclists, Taxis and Motorcyclists Association led by Comrade Udo Johnson Okpong, and the Association of Self-employed Commercial Road Transport Operators in Akwa Ibom State, led by Prince Sunday Augustine Ibanga, have taken the Akwa Ibom State Internal Revenue Service to court for unlawful daily road tax payable through the purchase of daily tickets in the course of their legitimate transport business.

The transporters are lamenting that the daily levies collected from them by the Ministry of Transport through the State Internal Revenue Service since 2016, is a pecuniary burden that is not traceable to any legislation.

The groups contend that the State Internal Revenue Service can only act as a tax authority for the State in respect of taxes imposed by law; that daily road tax collected from commercial road transport operators in the State does not form part of the revenue due by law to the Akwa Ibom State Government.

The transporters described the unlawful collection by the Ministry of Transport in collaboration with the State Internal Revenue Service as a classical case of corruption perpetuated by and for the benefits of few privileged individuals through the instrumentality of public offices.

In an Originating Summons filed at the State High Court by their Counsel, Barr Uyoakam Ekerete, the groups as Plaintiffs are praying the court to determine whether having regard to Item D, Paragraph 7 in Part 2 of the 2nd Schedule to the 1999 Constitution(as amended), the Defendants can lawfully collect daily levies from the Plaintiffs or howsoever tax them in the course of their transport business without the imposition of such tax on the Plaintiffs by a Primary Tax Legislation and as well determine whether having regard to Item D, Paragraph 7 in part 2 of the 2nd Schedule to the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the Defendants can lawfully distrain the Plaintiffs, seize and/or impound their vehicles, arrest, intimidate or harass them and/or howsoever interfere with their transport business on account of any purported default in the payment of any tax, levy, charges or rates not traceable to any Primary Tax Legislation?

Among the reliefs sought by the Plaintiffs, is an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Defendants from further collecting from the Plaintiffs in the course of their transport business, any form of tax, levy, charges, rates or any pecuniary exaction of whatever cognomen or nomenclature, except same is imposed by a Primary Tax Legislation.

In a Motion on Notice filed their Counsel, Barr. Ekerete, the Plaintiffs pray the court for an interlocutary injunction restraining the Defendants from harassing the Plaintiffs in the course of their transport business for any alleged default of payment of any form of daily tax not imposed by and/or traceable to any Primary Tax Legislation, pending the determination of the substantive suit; or in the alternative, an interlocutary order directing the State Internal Revenue Service and the Commissioner, Ministry of Transport, being the 1st and 2nd Defendants respectively, to deposit the daily proceeds of the sales of the daily tickets, computed from the serial numbers endorsed on the daily tickets sold, in an interest yielding account to be provided by the Registrar of Court, pending the determination of the substantive suit.

Joined as Defendants in the suit are the Akwa Ibom State Internal Revenue Service, the Commissioner, Ministry of Transport and Solid Minerals, Akwa Ibom State, the Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State and the Commissioner of Police, Akwa Ibom State as 1st to 4th Defendants respectively.

The suit has been slated for hearing of the Motion on Notice on the 30th of May, 2024.

 

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