Jurisdiction is a threshold matter that goes to the root of the determination of a suit or appeal. Jurisdiction is a matter of strict law. This makes this principle all the more, important to take cognizance of. This page briefly exposes our dear readers to the settled law that the Tax Appeal Tribunal’s jurisdiction is not in wrestling or against the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court (FHC) as provided for under Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
In confirmation of this principle, the Court of Appeal in CNOOC EXPLORATION AND PRODUCTION (NIG) LTD & ANOR v. NNPC & ANOR (2017) LPELR-43800(CA), Per TUKUR, JCA (Pp. 25-27, paras. B-D):
“In support of arguments made on this issue Learned senior Counsel to the Appellants referred this Court to its earlier decisions in the unreported judgment cases of Shell Nigerian Exploration and Production & Ors vs. FIRS & Anor (unreported judgment Appeal No. CA/A/208/2012 delivered on 31st August 2016) at pg 38; and Esso Exploration and Production Nigeria Limited & Anor vs. Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (unreported judgment Appeal No CA/A/507/2012 delivered on 22nd July 2016) at pages 11-12 of the certified copy of the judgment. Now in Shell Nigerian Exploration and Production & Ors v. FIRS & Anor, this Court at page 38 held that:-
“The procedure for resolving claims and objections such as in the instant matter are spelt out. When an assessment is made and the party is not satisfied, it can serve a Notice of Objection with the FIRS. It can also file a notice of refusal to amend the assessment as desired where it disagrees with FIRS. The party may also then appeal against the assessment to the Tax Appeal Tribunal. If the party is still dissatisfied with the decision of the Tax Appeal Tribunal, then it can approach the Federal High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court”.
The above recognition of the tax Appeal Tribunal by this Court as a vital step towards the resolution of tax related disputes shows that the tax Appeal Tribunal has jurisdiction over such matters. The facts of the case of Esso V. NNPC contained in the certified true copy presented to this Court by Learned Senior Counsel to the Appellants are also relevant to this instant one, as the facts in issue there also revolved around petroleum profit tax and education development tax arising from a production sharing contract. In that case, this Court at page 11 of the CTC of the judgment, wholly approved the procedure prescribed by the petroleum profit Tax Act, which includes on appeal to the tax Appeal Tribunal. This Court then went on to hold at page 12 thus:-
“It must be stated that Section 251(1)(b) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 as amended gives exclusive jurisdiction to the Federal High Court in civil causes and matters connected with or pertaining to the taxation of companies and other bodies established or carrying on business in Nigeria and all other persons subject to Federal taxation. It may be added that in respect of the petroleum profit tax, it is after the exhaustion of remedies or the process set out in (i) (ii) and (iii) above that a person may approach the Federal High Court”. Part of the process referred to by this Court above, is an appeal to the Tax Appeal Tribunal. In essence, the combined effect of the aforementioned decisions is that the tax Appeal Tribunal has jurisdiction to entertain tax matters such as in this instant case.”
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