The Supreme Court this morning ruled unanimously that that only state houses of assemblies that can make laws on tourism by licensing and grading of hotels, restaurants, fast food outlets and other hospitality establishments.
The apex court presided over by Justice Suleiman Galadima held that the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, only empowers the National Assembly to regulate tourist traffic, a term which does not extend to hotel registration and licensing.
The court also validated both the Hotel Licensing Law of Lagos State (as amended) and the Hotel Occupancy and Restaurant Consumption Law of Lagos State and annulled the offending sections of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) Act.
Attorney General of Lagos State, Mr. Ade Ipaye, counsel to the Lagos State Government argued that the only power reserved for the National Assembly in the Exclusive list in schedule 2 of the constitution was the regulation of tourist traffic, which only pertained to immigrations and the issuance of visas.
But counsel to the Federal Government, Mr. Tunde Busari had argued that the phrase was enough to cover all tourism subjects and called on the court to invalidate the Hotel Licensing Law and Hotel Consumption Tax Law of Lagos State, but his arguments were turned down.
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, which has resulted in the NTDC and the State Government setting up parallel registration and regulation structures to the annoyance of businessmen in the industry.
Commenting on the judgement, Commissioner for Tourism and Intergovernmental Relations, Mr. Disun Holloway commended the Supreme Court for upholding the tenets of federalism adding that the judgement will eradicate multiplicity of taxation and regulation, thereby enabling states to take charge and properly plan for the hospitality industry in their respective territories.