Sesugh Akume, a businessman, has asked a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to stop the destruction of alcoholic drinks by Hisbah, the Sharia law enforcement agency in some Northern states of the federation.
In a suit dated March 04, Akume said the destruction of alcoholic beverages bottles and wasting the content is economic sabotage.
Joined as first and second respondents in the suit are Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The businessman added that states that do not appreciate monies sourced from VAT derived from alcohol might pass laws in their respective House of Assembly to refund such amount to the Nigerian government or donate to others who would appreciate same.
The court document read, “An order and declaration that the manufacture/production, transportation/haulage distribution sales, consumption or possession of alcoholic beverages are NOT forbidden in Nigeria by the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria or any extant federal law; therefore any subsidiary legislation criminalising same is unconstitutional, null and void and of no consequence whatsoever.
“An order and declaration that the destruction of alcoholic beverages bottles and wasting of the content is an act of economic sabotage.
“A declaration that destroying a source value-added tax one enjoys is a contradiction and hypocritical. An order is compelling the 2nd Respondent(EFCC) to deter and publish the extent of financial loss for every act of destruction of alcoholic beverages and wasting its content, and prosecuting offenders under extant laws.
“An order and declaration that retaining and utilising any allocation, value-added tax, or any funds distributed by the federal government or give to others.
“The manufacture/production, transportation/haulage, distribution, sales, consumption, or possession of alcoholic beverages is not forbidden by the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s Constitution. The Constitution being the supreme law of the land to which every other legislation that contradicts it becomes a nullity.
“The alcoholic beverages industry is a top money earner for the country and a means of employment and livelihood for millions; therefore, any deliberate destruction and wastage of such products is economic sabotage.
“The EFFC must assess and determine the extent of financial loss for every such destruction and prevent and prosecute offenders. Retaining and utilising VAT from alcohol (and other ‘unethical’ sources like the lottery, gambling, etc.) is not compulsory; recipients may return the same to the federal government or donate to others.
“An interpretation of the statutes to address these issues becomes urgent and vital. For instance, the Kano State Hisbah Board, for example, on Friday, March 12 2010, destroyed 34,000 bottles of different alcoholic beverages, wasting its content.
“The practice continued, and on Wednesday 27, November 2013, it destroyed 244,151 bottles of alcohol and prosecuted dealers in it, and this has been a yearly occurrence. On Sunday, September 22, 2019, thedestroyed 196,400 bottles worth more than 50 million naira, and this last year, on Sunday, November 08, 2020, they destroyed 1,975,000 bottles of alcohol worth up to half a billion naira; copies of the media reports of these wanton destruction are attached and marked as Exhibit 1A-1D.
“Not only Kano is involved in this destruction of alcoholic beverages bottles and arresting dealers, but other states are also involved. For instance, 588 bottles of beer were wasted in Jigawa on Monday, August 24 2020. A copy of the media report of this wanton destruction is attached and marked as Exhibit 2.”
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