Group takes FG to court over new excise duty rates increase on alcohol, tobacco

A Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), the Business Renaissance Group (BRG) has dragged the Federal Government to court to prevent it from implementing the new excise duty rate increase on alcohol and tobacco which went into effect earlier on Monday.

The suit was brought to court by Christian Hon, from the Law firm of J-K Gadzama (SAN), on behalf of the group.

BRG had in in May staged a protest at the National Assembly, calling the new excise duty rate increase, ‘Killer Taxes on alcohol and beverages’.

In its summons, the group asked the court to compel the Minister of Finance and her agents while reviewing any tariffs, to consider the interest of the Plaintiffs, the consumers as well as the Nigerian Constitution as it relates to the free flow of commerce for the benefit of all Nigerians as a fundamental obligation of Government.

The group also tasked the court to declare that the excise duty rate increase on alcohol and tobacco is against public policy and not in tandem with sections 16 and 42 of the Nigerian constitution, 1999 as amended. They asked the Court to declare that the tariff rate increases on alcohol and tobacco is indefensibly and unjustifiably selective, discriminatory, unreasonable and unfairly oppressive to a particular segment of the Nigerian society including the plaintiff, whose products and means of livelihood are threatened by the new oppressive tariff regime.

The plaintiff is also seeking a declaration from the court that the propagation and enforcement of said discriminatory and oppressive tariffs is an act of executive bad faith, recklessness and is not a bona fide or positive exercise of governmental power and therefore runs contrary to the raison d’etre of governance – as made clear in the constitution.

The suit follows a 30-day ultimatum given to the finance minister to rescind the rate increase or face legal action.

BRG had at a Press Conference in Abuja in April decried the rate increase as insensitive, draconian and done without consulting with critical stakeholders. It asserted that the rate increase has the potential to create loss of revenue by Government, mass sack of Nigerians working in the Beverage and Tobacco sector, dumping of cheap imports as well as likely health challenges occasioned by the resort to cheap and unhealthy wines and spirits by those who will not be able to afford the likely price increase which the excise duty rate increase will necessitate.

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