Court rules against Customs’ collection of import duty on personal effects


        …Awards N5m compensation to Plaintiff

                   

It is unlawful for the Nigeria Customs Service to collect import duty on goods and personal effects in a passenger’s luggage, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ruled on Wednesday.

The judgement was delivered by the Abuja Judicial Division (Coram: JT.Tsoho, CJ) in Kehinde Ogunwumiji, SAN v, Nigeria Customs Service Board & Anor: Suit No: FHC/ABJ/1113/2019.

The judgement therefore established that import duty would only be lawfully demanded and collected from anybody when the Service can prove that goods and personal effects found in a passenger’s luggage are intended for sale, barter or exchange.

In this reference case, an originating summons to the Court by the Plaintiff, Kehinde Ogunwumiji (SAN) through his Counsel, Tunde Ahmed Adejumo Esq, primarily sought 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 Nigeria Customs Service to demand and collect import duty and other related charges  from the Plaintiff in respect of his personal effect(A Louis Vuitton Lap Top Bag) found in his luggage following a search by the customs officers on his arrival at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja on the 24th June, 2019.

In its judgement, the Court, 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 goods contained in a passenger’s luggage, provided that the said goods are not intended for sale, barter or exchange; and personal and household effects are exempted from import duty.

The Court found that with the evidence before it, the Plaintiff was able to establish that the Louis Vuitton Lap Top Bag found in his luggage by the Customs officers belonged to him and was meant for his personal use.

In the same vein, the Court found that the Defendants could only demand and collect import duty for the said Louis Vuitton Lap Top Bag found in the Plaintiff’s luggage if it establish through credible evidence that the said bag was intended for sale, barter or exchange.

The Court ruled that there was legal basis upon which the Defendant demanded and collected import duty and other related charges from the Plaintiff in respect of the said bag since the Defendant failed to establish through credible evidence that the bag found in the Plaintiff’s luggage was intended for sale, exchange or barter.

In that regard, the Court ordered the Defendant(The Nigeria Customs Service) to refund the sum of N156,955.20k( One hundred and Fifty-Six Thousand, Nine Hundred and Fifty-Five Naira, Twenty Kobo) to the Plaintiff, being money he paid as import duty and other related charges, and to also pay to the Plaintiff the sum of N5 million as damages.