Court reprimands, slams N5m fine on Customs over illegal collection of duty on personal effects

An Abuja Federal High Court yesterday reprimanded the Officers of the Nigeria Customs Service for illegally collecting the sum of N156, 955.20 from one Kehinde Ogunwumiju as duties on a personal effects he brought to the country.
Ogunwumiju had approached the Federal High Court, through his lawyer in an originating surmon,  seeking a declaration that in view of the provisions of Section 8 of the Customs, Excise Tariff, etc. (Consolidation) Act and the 2nd Schedule to the Customs, Excise Tariff, etc. (Consolidation) Act, it was unlawful for officers of the Nigerian Customs Service to have demanded and collected import duty and other related charges from the him(plaintiff) in respect of his personal effect (A Louis Vuitton Lap Top Bag) found in his baggage following a search by the officers of the Nigerian Customs Service upon his arrival at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja on the 24th June, 2019.
The Court in its judgment on the Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/1113/2019 between  Kehinde Ogunwumiju, SAN v. Nigerian Customs Service Board & Anor:
 having analysed the provisions of Section 8 of the Customs, Excise Tariff, etc. (Consolidation) Act and the 2nd Schedule to the Customs, Excise Tariff, etc. (Consolidation) Act was of the view that the following goods are exempted from import duty and other related charges:
Goods contained in a passenger’s baggage provided that the said goods are not intended for sale, barter or exchange and
Personal and household effects.
The Court found that based on the state of the evidence before it, the Plaintiff,  Ogunwumiju, had established that the Louis Vuitton Lap Top bag found in his baggage by the officers of the Nigerian Customs Service was his personal effect and meant for his personal use.
The Court also found that before the Defendants could lawfully demand and collect import duty and other related charges in respect of the said Louis Vuitton Lap Top Bag found in the Plaintiff’s baggage, the Defendants had to establish via cogent and credible evidence that the said bag was meant for sale, exchange or barter.

Accordingly, the court ruled that the Defendants(Nigeria Customs Service) having failed to establish via evidence that the said bag found in the Plaintiff’s baggage was meant for sale, exchange or barter, there was no legal basis upon which the officers of the Nigerian Customs Service demanded and collected import duty and other related charges from the Plaintiff in respect of the said bag.

Court also  found that the decision and action of the Defendants (Nigeria Customs)to demand and collect from the Plaintiff (Ogunwumiju) import duty and other related charges in respect of his personal effect is unlawful, null and void.

Consequently, the court ordered the Defendants(Nigeria Customs) to refund the sum of N156, 955. 20k (One Hundred and Fifty-Six Thousand, Nine Hundred and Fifty-Five Naira, Twenty Kobo) in import duty and other related charges to the Plaintiff and also to pay to the Plaintiff the sum of N5, 000, 000.00 (Five Million Naira) as exemplary damages.

Following this judgment, it is now unlawful for officers of the Nigerian Customs Service to demand and collect import duty and other related charges from anyone in respect of goods/personal effects found in their baggage provided that the said goods/personal effects are not meant for sale, barter or exchange.

In other words, the only instance in which officers of the Nigerian Customs Service can lawfully demand and collect import duty from anyone in respect of goods/personal effects found in their baggage is where it can be established that the said goods/personal effects are meant for sale, barter or exchange.

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