A full panel of the Supreme Court of Nigeria this 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 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 (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.
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.