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Monday, November 30, 2020

Court Declares As Illegal, Payment Of Import Duty On Personal Goods

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The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has held that it is unlawful for officers of the Nigerian Customs Service to demand and collect import duty and other related charges on personal effects.

Justice John Tsoho delivered the judgment in a case filed by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Kehinde Ogunwumiju against the Nigerian Customs Service Board & another.

The SAN through his counsel, Tunde Adejumo, had approached the Court through an Originating Summons, to seek 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 Nigerian Customs Service to have demanded and collected import duty and other related charges from him (the SAN) in respect of his personal effect.

The SAN said 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, 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 said 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 Nigerian Customs Service 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 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.

The court, therefore, declared as unlawful, null, and void the actions of the customs officers and ordered the Nigerian Customs Service 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.

The implication of this judgment is that 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 and personal effects found in their baggage provided that the said goods and personal effects are not meant for sale, barter or exchange

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