BY TOPE FAYEHUN, Akure
The Ondo State High Court has ordered the Nigerian Breweries Plc to pay a sum of N169.175million as the haulage fees the company owes the state government.
Justice William Akintoroye of the state High Court sitting in Akure, the state capital, gave the order in a petition filed by the Nigeria Breweries Plc on Wednesday.
The company had approached the court to challenge the demand notices served on it by the Ondo State Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives for the payment of haulage fee last year .
The respondents in the case were the Ondo State Government, the Ondo State Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives and the Ondo State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice
The petitioner, in the suit no: AK/l45/2020, asked the court to restrain it from paying the haulage fee, saying it was ” not liable to pay haulage of goods as part of its object and business and the respondents cannot therefore demand the payment of haulage fee from the petitioner and/or enforce the payment of haulage fees purportedly due to the respondent from third parties transport/haulage companies against the petitioner.”
It sought, “An order of the court restraining the respondents from further demanding of haulage fees from the petitioner forthwith as well as restraining the respondents from further harassing and intimidating the employees of the petitioner and from the unlawful disruption and closure of the petitioner’s business premises on the ground of non-payment of haulage fee.”
It also sought, ” An order of the court directing and/or mandating the respondents to directly enforce the payment and/or collection of the alleged haulage fees due to them , directly from the third parties, transport companies, engaged by the petitioner to transport its drink to Akure, being the companies that actually engaged in haulage and/or haulage business, under the Taxes And Levies (Approved List For Collection) Act, (Amendment) Order, 2015, to wit: AOP Logistics Limited and Tasho Nigeria Limited.”
After the series of arguments from the counsels of both the petitioner and the respondents, the court ruled in favour of the state government .
In the judgement, Justice Akinroyoye said the petition lacked merit.
The court held that the first respondent ( Ondo State Government) has the constitutional right and it is the constitutional duty of Nigerian Breweries Plc to pay a haulage fee to the government being the principal to the transport agencies that convey its product.
Justice Akintoroye also granted the cross-petition of the respondent for the recovery of the sum of N169.175 million from the petitioner , being the haulage fee owed by the petitioner for the period of 2017 to 2019.
The court ordered that the Nigerian Breweries Plc depot in Akure be sealed pending the settlement of their tax liabilities to the Ondo State Government.
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