Falana wants court to stop firm from collecting expatriate card fees

Femi Falana
Femi Falana (SAN)

A lawyer, Femi Falana, has filed a suit in court against Nigeria’s ministry of interior as well as Continental Transfert Technique Ltd, Contec, over the contract for the Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Alien Card, which the lawyer says is fraudulent and illegal.

Mr Falana had informed PREMIUM TIMES in last week he would take the two public bureaucracies and CONTEC to court.

He brushed aside their separate defences following his earlier petition to the ministry of finance.

In the court filing seen by this newspaper, the key issue raised for determination by Mr Falana is the constitutionality of the CERPAC contract to Contec as well as the upward review of the CERPAC fee from $1,000 to $2,000 last December.

In Nigeria, CERPAC is mandatory for expatriates. It allows them to live and work in the country.

To “fix and collect” CERPAC fee is a statutory responsibility of the Nigeria Immigration Service, (NIS), argues Mr Falana in his filing.

According to the lawyer, following sections 20 and 37 of the Immigration Act, “the engagement of the 3rd Defendant (Contec) by the 1st Defendant (ministry of interior) is to fix and collect the CERPAC Fees paid by all expatriates in Nigeria is not illegal, null and void.”

Contec has been in a contractual relationship with the ministry of interior over CERPAC since 1999, according to the ministry. It says the company “totally” finances the CERPAC project.

On the review of the CERPAC fee, Mr Falana said the ministry of interior headed by Abdurahman Dambazau abused Nigeria’s law.

Parts of Mr Falana’s filing read: “By virtue of Section 59 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended the purported approval was given to the 3rd Defendant on December 13, 2018 to increase the Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Alien Card Fee from US$1,000 to US$2,000 paid by every expatriate in Nigeria is not illegal and unconstitutional,” reads a part of Mr Falana’s court papers.

“We submit that a money bill for the increase or reduction in Fee paid into the coffers of the Federal Government has to be passed by the National Assembly in line with Section 59(1)(a)(b)(2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended which
states as follows:

““59. (1) The provisions of this section shall apply to –

(a) an appropriate bill or a supplementary appropriation bill including any other bill for the payment, issue or withdrawal from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the Federation of any money charged thereon or any alteration in the amount of such a payment, issue or withdrawal; and

(b) a bill for the imposition of or increase in any tax, duty or fee or any reduction, withdrawal or cancellation thereof.

(2) Where a bill to which this section applies is passed by one of the House of the National assembly but is not passed by the other House within two months from the commencement of a financial year, the President of the Senate shall within fourteen days after that arrange for an convene a meeting of the joint finance committee to examine the bill with a view to resolving the differences between the two Houses”.”

Revenue

Another issue Mr Falana raised for determination is that the revenue generated from CERPAC is not remitted and shared according to section 162 of the constitution.

He further asks the court to restrain Contec from collecting CERPAC fee. Instead, he seeks an injunction that the NIS should perform that duty.

Defence

PREMIUM TIMES was unable to obtain the filing of the opposing parties immediately. But the company had previously called Mr Falana’s claims “blatantly false”.

In an interview with this paper, Mr Dambazau also said the increase of the CERPAC fee was a part of reforms to check abuse of expatriate quota and develop local content.

But then, he did not comment on the legality of the review.

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