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16 November 2017
On March 10 2017 the Court of Appeal in CNOOC Exploration & Production Nigeria Ltd v Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)(1) upheld the Tax Appeal Tribunal's jurisdiction to determine tax disputes. The appeals arose from disputes over petroleum profits and tertiary education tax assessments issued to the appellants by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
In the course of resolving the tax disputes between the appellants and FIRS, the Tax Appeal Tribunal issued orders joining the NNPC as a party to the dispute. The NNPC objected to these orders and challenged the tribunal's jurisdiction to hear the disputes on the ground that the subject matter of the disputes was within the Federal High Court's exclusive jurisdiction. The tribunal ruled that it had jurisdiction to determine the disputes, but struck out the NNPC as a party.
The NNPC appealed against the tribunal's rulings striking it out as a party, contending, among other things, that the tribunal had no jurisdiction to determine tax matters, as such matters were within the Federal High Court's exclusive jurisdiction. The Federal High Court agreed with the NNPC's arguments and held that the tribunal lacked the jurisdiction to hear and determine tax disputes under Section 251(1) of the Constitution 1999 (as amended).
Dissatisfied with the Federal High Court judgments, the appellants further appealed to the Court of Appeal. The appellants argued that the tribunal's jurisdiction to determine tax disputes did not encroach on the Federal High Court's exclusive jurisdiction as conferred on it by Sections 251(1)(a) and (b) of the Constitution. The appellants explained that:
The Court of Appeal agreed with the appellants' arguments and held that the tribunal has jurisdiction to adjudicate tax-related disputes.
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