by crossriverwatch admin
Fortune may have smiled on Cross River State, Nigeria’s biggest tourism haven with Friday’s judgment of the Supreme Court relinquishing the control of tourism and hotel regulation to states of the federation.
It would be recalled that several state governments and the Federal Government have been embroiled in controversy over the question of proper authority to license and grade hospitality establishments.
In Lagos for instance, the controversy had resulted in the Nigerian Tourism Development Commission, NTDC and the Lagos State Government setting up parallel registration and regulation structures to the annoyance of businessmen in the industry.
But a full panel of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on Friday morning unanimously declared that it is only a State House of Assembly that can make laws on tourism or the licensing and grading of hotels, restaurants, fast food outlets and other hospitality establishments.
Dismissing a case filed by the Attorney General of the Federation and upholding the contention of the Attorney General of Lagos State, the Court held that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, only empowers the National Assembly to regulate tourist traffic, a term which does not extend to hotel registration or licensing.
The Court also ruled in favor of Lagos State in another case filed on the same subject which was consolidated with the first one for hearing.
In the latter case, the Court declared valid both the Hotel Licensing Law of Lagos State (as amended) and the Hotel Occupancy and Restaurant Consumption Law of Lagos State.
The offending sections of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) Act were however declared null and void.
Represented by the Attorney General, Mr. Ade Ipaye, in person, Lagos State Government had argued during the hearing that the only power reserved to the National Assembly on the Exclusive Legislative List in Schedule 2 to the Constitution was the regulation of tourist traffic, which only pertained to immigrations and the issuance of visas, but Mr. Tunde Busari, representing the Attorney General of the Federation, contended that the phrase was enough to cover all tourism subjects and that the NTDC Act had therefore covered the field.
On those grounds, Mr. Busari called on the court to invalidate the Hotel Licensing Law and Hotel Consumption Tax Law of Lagos State. This was rejected by Galadima JSC who read the lead judgment and all other justices in both cases.
By dismissing the case of the Federal Government, the apex court has put paid to this controversy and paved way for State Governments to take full charge of tourism regulation and development within their respective jurisdictions.
It is also expected that this judgment will eradicate multiplicity of taxation and regulation, thereby enabling States like Cross River State whose main stay is tourism to take charge and properly plan for the hospitality industry and increase their revenue for development without oil money.
As at the time of filing this report, CrossRiverWatch was yet to get the reaction of the Special Assistant on Tourism to Governor Liyel Imoke on the landmark judgment.
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