Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Court Blocks Lagos Govt From Collecting Cinema Tax

A Federal High Court in Lagos has declined to stay execution of a 2018 judgment barring the Lagos State Video Censors Board, LSFVCB, from collecting annual registration and licensing fees from cinemas.

Justice Austin Obiozor refused an application by the Lagos State Government for an injunction pending appeal against the judgment.

The judge had, in the March 18, judgment, held that Lagos State’s legislative power over the subject-matter was in abeyance since the National Assembly had already made a law on the same subject.

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The judgment followed a suit marked FHC/L/CS/1502/2016 filed by Harris & Annis Ltd, operators of Dews Cinema, with the Attorney-General of Lagos State and three others as defendants.

The plaintiff had challenged, through its lawyer, C. O. P. Emeka of Auxano Law, Lagos State’s power to register and licence cinema centres under the Cinematograph Law of Lagos State.

However, by a May 14 Notice of Appeal, the Attorney-General and the LSFVCB informed Justice Obiozor that they had approached the Court of Appeal to overturn the judgment.

They also filed an application for injunction pending appeal, to restrain the enforcement and implementation of the judgment.

At the hearing of the application on Monday, December 14, 2020, Olamide Ibrahim of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, representing the appellants/applicants, prayed the court to restrain the plaintiff from giving effect to the judgment until the determination of the appeal.

He contended that Lagos State would suffer loss of revenue from cinemas if the judgment is allowed to be enforced.

But the respondent/plaintiff opposed him through its counsel, Emmanuel-Kant Ekeocha of Auxano Law.

He argued that the respondent/plaintiff would be prejudiced as it would be paying annual fees to both the National Film and Video Censors Board, NFVCB, and the LSFVCB contrary to the terms of the subsisting judgment, until whenever the appeal is determined.

Upholding the respondent/plaintiff’s contention, Justice Obiozor reasoned that the application was in effect seeking to restore the status quo ante bellum between parties to enable the applicants to continue to collect fees from cinema operators contrary to the judgment of the court.

He held that the application lacked merit and accordingly dismissed it.

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