Justice Chukwujeku Aneke, of the Federal High Court, Lagos yesterday, fixed June 26 for hearing of a suit filed by MTN Nigeria Communication Ltd, against the Attorney General of the Federation, over alleged N242 billion and $1.3 billion import duties and withholding tax assessments.
MTN had instituted the suit by a writ, dated Sept.10, 2018, challenging mainly, the legality of the AGF’s assessment of its import duties, withholding tax and value added tax in the sums of N242 billion and $1.3 billion.
The plaintiff is seeking among other declaratory reliefs, a declaration that the AGF’s demand of the sums of N242 billion and $1.3 billion from MTN is premised on a process which is malicious, unreasonable and made on incorrect legal basis.
The court fixed the date for hearing of the suit after ruling on a preliminary objection challenging the suit by AGF.
AGF in the application argued that the plaintiff’s action is statute barred having been filed out of time.
It argued that in seeking redress to the subject matter, the plaintiff had just three months from the date the cause of action arose, to institute the action, adding that same was filed out of lawfully stipulated time.
AGF had urged the court to dismiss the plaintiff’s suit as being caught up by the statute of limitation.
Justice Aneke had heard the parties arguments on the application on March 26, reserved ruling till yesterday .
Ruling on the application Tuesday, Aneke, cited authorities of superior courts of record, the court held that for purposes of limitation, time begins to run from the date the cause of action accrued.
“The patent question to ask is when did the cause of action arise; is it on May 21, 2018 when the plaintiff received the defendanit’s letter dated May 10, 2018, or on Aug. 23, 2018 when it received the defendant’s demand letter dated Aug 20, 2018.
“In my view, paragraph 24 among other paragraph of the plaintiff’s statement of claim is germane in resolving this issue; MTN avers that the AGF afforded it insufficient time to respond to its queries
“Judging from the plaintiff’s writ of summons and statement of claim as I am concerned to do, it will seem to me that the plaintiff’s cause of action with respect to this suit, arose on Aug. 23, 2018, when plaintiff received the defendant’s letter of demand dated Aug. 20, 2018, and nor May 21, 2018 when it received the demand letter of May 10, 2018.
“From the endorsement on the writ, this suit was commenced on September 10, 2018, and a simple calculation shows that from Aug. 23, 2018 when cause of action arose to Sept. 10, 2018 when the suit was instituted, a period of three months has not expired as envisaged, for the suit to be statute barred,” he said.