THE Federal High Court sitting in Abuja yesterday held that it is unlawful for Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) officials to demand and collect import duty and other related charges on personal effects.
The judgment was delivered by Justice John Tsoho in a case filed by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Kehinde Ogunwumiju against the Nigerian Customs Service Board & another.
The SAN had approached the court through his counsel, Tunde Adejumo, through an Originating Summons, seeking a declaration that in view of the provisions of Section 8 of the Customs, Excise Tariff (Consolidation) Act and the 2nd Schedule of the same Act, it was unlawful for officers of the NCS to have demanded and collected import duty and other related charges from him Mr. Adejumo in respect of his personal effect.
The SAN said following a search by the officers of the NCS upon his arrival at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja on the June 24, 2019, a Louis Vuitton Laptop Bag was found in his baggage and seized.
In reaching its decision, the Court said having analysed the relevant provisions of the Customs, Excise Tariff, etc. (Consolidation) Act, it is clear that certain goods are exempted from import duty and other related charges:
1. Goods contained in a passenger’s baggage provided that the said goods are not intended for sale, barter or exchange; and
2. Personal and household effects.
The Court added that it found that based on the state of the evidence before it, the Plaintiff had established that the Louis Vuitton Laptop Bag found in his baggage by the officers of the NCS was his personal effect and meant for his personal use.
The Court also found that before the Customs officers could lawfully demand and collect import duty and other related charges in respect of the said Louis Vuitton Laptop bag found in the Plaintiff’s baggage, they needed to establish via cogent and credible evidence that the said bag was meant for sale, exchange or barter.
Having failed to establish the same via evidence, the court ruled that there was no legal basis upon which officers of the NCS demanded and collected import duty and other related charges from the Plaintiff in respect of the said bag.
The court, therefore, declared as unlawful, null, and void the actions of the Customs officers and ordered the NCS Board to refund to the SAN, the sum of N156, 955. 20k (One Hundred and Fifty-Six Thousand, Nine Hundred and Fifty-Five Naira, Twenty Kobo) collected as import duty and other related charges and to also pay to the SAN, the sum of N5,000,000.00 (Five Million Naira) as exemplary damages.
With the judgment delivered, it is now unlawful for officers of the NCS to demand and collect import duty and other related charges from anyone in respect of goods and personal effects found in their baggage provided the said goods and personal effects are not meant for sale, barter or exchange.