By Akin Kuponiyi
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos south west Nigeria, in a landmark judgement delivered by the presiding Judge Rilwan Aikawa, has not only declared as illegal the engagement of a private company Continental Transfer Technique Limited by Minister of Interior to fix and collect the Combine Expatriates Residence permit and alien card Fees paid by all expatriates in Nigeria as illegal and unconstitutional, but has also ordered, Minister of Interior, comptroller -General of Immigration and Continental Transfer Technique ltd. Company to account, refund and remit into Federation Account all combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Alien card (CERPAC) Fees collected from all expatriates in Nigeria since 2014.
The judgement of the court was as a result of a suit instituted by a Human Rights lawyer Barrister Femi Falana SAN , against the minister of Interior, urging the court to declare that by virtue of of sections 20 and 37 of the Immigration Act, engagement of Continental Transfer Technique company by the Minister of Interior to fix and collect the CERPAC fees paid illegal, null and void.
Joined as co-defendants in the suit are Comptroller General of Immigration and a limited liability company Continental Transfer Technique Limited.
In an affidavit in support of originating summons sworn to by the litigation manager from the law firm of Falana & Falana, Mr Emeka Bernard filed and argued before the court by Mr Falana SAN, the deponent averred that prior to December, 2018, every expatriate in Nigeria paid the sum of $1000 per annum for the Combined Residence Permit and Alien Card CERPAC.
However on December 13, 2018 minister of interior approved the request of Continental Transfer Technique to increase CERPAC fee payable by every expatriate in Nigeria from $1,000 to $2000.
By a letter dated January 29, 2019 addressed to Minister of Finance, Mr Falana, SAN, protested the decision of the minister to grant the approval for the increase and the diversion of the revenue collected by CERPAC fees paid by all expatriates in Nigeria.
But the Legal Adviser in the ministry of interior stated that the ministry is in contractual relationship with Continental Transfer Technique to collect the CERPAC.
Comptroller of immigration, in an interview confirmed that the revenue collected from the CERPAC is shared and distributed by the defendants as follows:
a. 5% to the Minister of Interior
b. 7% to the Comptroller of Immigration
c. 33% to the Federal Government
d. 55% to Continental Transfer Technique
Falana, SAN, contended that Continental Transfer Technique Company is not an official of the Federal Government but a private company engaged solely by Minister of interior to usurp and perform the statutory duties of the Comptroller of Immigration in fixing the CERPAC fees paid by all expatriates in Nigeria.
The Government did not propose the increment of the CERPAC from $1000 to $2000 payable by every expatriate in the appropriation Bill 2018 which was duly passed by National Assembly and signed into law by the President.
The defendants have prevented all expatriates in Nigeria from paying the CERPAC into the Federation account at the Central Bank of Nigeria contrary to the Treasury Single account policy of the Federal Government.
The number of expatriate working in Nigeria is in the region of 200,000 while the revenue being collected from them is not less than $400miilon per annum.
Out of the said sum of $400million only 33% is allocated to the Federal Government while the remaining 67% of the revenue is shared by the defendants.
The 36 states Government, the Federal Capital Territory and the 774 local Governments are not allowed to share in the revenue of about $400million.
Consequently, Mr Falana SAN while urging the court to restrain the defendants and their agents from the fixing, collection and distribution of CERPAC paid by every expatriate in Nigeria in any manner whatsoever should also direct the defendants to account, refund and remit into the Federation account all CERPAC collected since 2014.
However, in a combined counter affidavit filed before the court by Minister of interior and Comptroller of Immigration, they contended that, Federal Government approved Continental Transfer Technique company to produce CERPAC cards, neither to fix fees nor collect same in line with global practice, as the minister is empowered by law to determine from time to time such fees as regards expatriate and immigrants who wish to work in Nigeria.
The expatriate pay to the commercial banks who in turn remits into Treasury Single Account the Federal Government’s share in line with the provisions of the Agreement.
After appraising the submission of the two parties, the presiding Judge Rilwan Aikawa in his judgement, upheld the submission of Mr Falana, SAN.