His Lordship, Hon. Justice Elizabeth Ama Oji, Lagos Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria in a judgment delivered on Thursday 8th March 2018 struck out suit in the case of SK BABALOLA (Claimant) v. LAGOS INLAND REVENUE SERVICE AND 2 ORS (Defendant) for lack of Jurisdiction.
Claimants commenced this action by way of Originating Summons on the 24th of August 2017. The Claimant’s claims amongst others; A DECLARATION that under section 17 of the Personal Income Tax Act, the Defendants are not empowered to audit withdrawals from contributions remitted to pension funds administrators. Also A DELCARATION that by virtue of section 3 (1) (e) of the Personal Income Tax Act, the Defendants cannot recover taxes from remittance to pension funds administrators under the contributory scheme cognizable under the Pension Reform Act.
The claimant argues it is evident that the relevant law expressly exempts pension from taxation. They therefore submit that pension funds are not amenable to tax and the Defendants cannot do otherwise as they are bound by the provisions of the law.
In response to the originating summons, defendants filed affidavit and a written address. The defendant averred that in exercise of its statutory function wrote the Claimant a letter dated 7 August 2017 notifying him of his failure to file his annual returns for the 2016 year of assessment and the attendant civil and criminal consequence(s). On 21st August 2017, (Fourteen-days later) the Defendant, upon the discovery of widespread abuse of the voluntary contribution pension scheme by pension account holders in connivance with the Pension Funds Administrators [PFAs] issued a public notice published in the Punch Newspaper directing that premature withdrawals from pension funds under the voluntary contribution scheme shall henceforth be treated as artificial transactions subjected to audit and tax pursuant to Section 17 of the Personal Income Tax since such withdrawals are not exempted from tax under the Pension Reform Act.
LAGOS INLAND REVENUE SERVICE counsel submitted amongst others following issues for determination; Whether this Honourable Court has jurisdiction to entertain this matter. Whether this suit as presently constituted reveals any cause of action as against the Defendants herein and Whether the Claimant herein has the requisite locus standi to commence this action.
On the issue of the jurisdiction of this Court to hear this matter, Defendants submit that this Honourable Court lacks the jurisdiction to try this matter because the Claimant's suit and reliefs are basically in relation to tax matters. Therefore, the suit ought to be filed at the Tax Appeal Tribunal which is the judicial body with the jurisdiction to hear the matter.
After reviewing the argument of the parties, the Court Presided by Hon. Justice E. A. Oji (Ph.D) had this to say:
I have listened to the oral and written submission of counsel in this matter and have also considered the argument of counsel contained in the addresses of counsel.
The situation on ground throws up the matter of jurisdiction of Court and it is trite that jurisdiction is the bedrock of any adjudication to the extent that it affects the very foundation of every cause of action before a Court of law. The reason is simple since without jurisdiction, the decision of a Court or tribunal without the requisite jurisdiction is a nullity, dead on arrival and of no effect whatsoever.
On the whole, I find that the subject matter of this suit falls outside the jurisdiction of this Court. I therefore hold that this Court does not have jurisdiction to hear this suit. The suit is hereby struck out on that basis.
Judgment is entered accordingly. I make no order as to cost.
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