The Nigerian government has appealed the ruling of the Federal High Court in Lagos on the collection and remittance of the Combined Expatriate and Residence Permit Aliens Card (CERPAC) fees.
The appeal was filed by the Ministry of Interior and Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS).
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the court presided by Justice Rilwanu Aikawa in his ruling in November 2019, nullified the review by Nigeria’s interior ministry, nearly one year after it increased CERPAC fee.
Justice Aikawa also declared as unconstitutional the contract between the interior ministry and Continental Transfert Technique Ltd, or Contec, for the collection of the CERPAC fee.
The judge ruled that only the Nigeria Immigration Service is lawfully empowered to collect such fees.
“While Section 102 of the Immigration Act provides for private sector participation in the development and provision of infrastructure, there is no provision as far as I can discern which allows for the participation of the private sector in the collection of residence permit or visa fees,” the judge held.
In Nigeria, CERPAC is mandatory for expatriates. It allows them to live and work in the country. It is renewable annually or every two years, depending on the validity of the period given.
The interior ministry, under former minister Abdurahman Dambazau, reviewed the fees for the card from $1,000 to $2,000 on December 13, 2018, following a request by Contec two days earlier.
That was without a prior warning to foreign nationals and, as such, many of them were reportedly surprised at the banks they had visited to pay for renewals.
Also in December 2018, the ministry and the company reviewed the sharing formula for the collected revenues: 55 per cent to the company, 33 per cent to the federal government, five per cent to the ministry of interior and seven per cent to the NIS.
But following the reviews, Mr Falana sued the company, interior ministry and the immigration service after nothing came of his petition to the finance ministry.
The judge upheld Mr Falana’s position that the minister lacked the power “whatsoever” to increase the fee without a money bill presented by the president and passed by the National Assembly.
“Although Section of the Immigration Act gives the minister the power to review the visa fees without the legislature,” the judge noted that it runs contrary to Section 59 of the Constitution.
“Any law, a statute or provision thereof that runs riot and violent to the provision of the Constitution or is in conflict with the Constitutional is null and void to the extent of the inconsistency,” the judge held.
He further declared that all fees collected from expatriates in Nigeria shall be paid into Federation Account in line with the provision of Section 162 of the Constitution.
But in a motion on notice filed at the Court of Appeal, the ministry is asking for a stay of execution of the ruling of the Federal High Court.
A stay of execution is a court order to temporarily suspend the execution of a court judgment or other court order.
In its motion dated January 24, the ministry said the order for the stay of execution on the judgment comes into force pending its determination by the Court of Appeal.
According to the ministry, the grounds for the objection bordered on the appeal by the defendants challenging the court’s jurisdiction to have entertained Mr Falana’s suit.
The Director of Legal Services in the Ministry, B.E Jeddy-Agba, in support for the motion of stay of execution, said the ministry is dissatisfied and aggrieved by the judgment and inevitably had to appeal the judgment.
The ministry said the appeal of the respondents has a strong likelihood of success at the Court of Appeal and that it will be in the interest of justice to grant the application for stay of execution of the judgment among others.