A Federal High Court siting in Lagos has granted a stay of execution of its judgment nullifying the collection, remittance and hike of the Combined Expatriate and Residence Permit Aliens Card (CERPAC) fees from $1000 to $2000 in 2018.
With the stay of execution granted, the increase in CERPAC fees subsists pending the final determination of the appeals.
The stay will operate until the Court of Appeal sets it aside or delivers its judgment.
A copy of the order staying the execution of the judgment was obtained by THISDAY at the weekend. The order was granted on March 3.
Justice Rilwanu Aikawa had on November 20, 2019, declared as unconstitutional the contract between the Ministry of Interior, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and Continental Transfert Technique Limited for the collection of the CERPAC fees, in a suit brought by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana.
The judge upheld 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.
The judge held: “Although Section of the Immigration Act gives the minister the power to review the visa fees without the legislature,” the judge added 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.”
However, the Minister for Interior and the Comptroller General of Immigration were dissatisfied with the judgment and filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal.
They raised twelve grounds upon which they asked the appellate court to set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court.
However, pending the determination of the appeal, they applied to the Federal High Court judge to stay the execution of his judgment. The application was dated January 21, 2020 was heard last week by the judge.
In granting the stay of execution of the judgment, the judge upheld the arguments of the applicants’ lawyer, Dr. Adewole Adebayo.
The judge held: “Upon reading the affidavit in support and written address dated and filed on the 22nd of November, 2019 in the Federal High Court Registry, deposed to by Omolara Sodeinde and a legal practitioner of Adewole Adebayo and Co. House of Law in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory.
“That an order is granted staying the execution of the judgment delivered by this court on November 20, 2019 pending the respective appeals filed by the three applicants at the Court of Appeal.”
In his earlier judgment, Justice Aikawa had 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 was 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 the former minister, Lt. Gen. Abdurahman Dambazau (rtd.), reviewed the fees for the card from $1,000 to $2,000 on December 13, 2018, following a request by Contec two days earlier.