FG loses control of tourism, hotel regulation to states

By The Citizen

A Panel of the Supreme Court of Nigeria has unanimously declared that it is only a state house of assembly that can make laws on tourism or exercise control in the licensing or grading of hotels, restaurants and fast food outlets.

Dismissing a case filed by Attorney General of the Federation and upholding the contention of that of Lagos State, the Court on Friday held that the Constitution empowers only the National Assembly to regulate tourist traffic, a term which does not extend to hotel registration or licensing.

The Court also ruled in favour 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 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, 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.

It would be recalled that the Lagos Sate Government and the Federal Government had been embroiled in controversy over the question of proper authority to license and grade hospitality establishments. This had resulted in the NTDC and the State Government setting up parallel registration and regulation structures to the annoyance of businessmen in the industry.  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.

Commenting on the judgment, Mr. Disun Holloway who is the Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism and Intergovernmental Relations, declared it as a landmark and commended the Supreme Court for upholding the tenets of Federalism. He also stated his expectation that this judgment will eradicate multiplicity of taxation and regulation, thereby enabling States to take charge and properly plan for the hospitality industry in their respective territories.