Court declares payment of import duty on personal effects in passenger’s baggage unlawful

• Slams N5m fine against Nigerian Customs Service

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has declared that payment of import duty on passenger’s goods and personal effects is unlawful.

The trial judge, Justice John Tsoho declared this on Wednesday, in a judgment he delivered in a suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/1113/2019 filed by Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN) against Nigerian Customs Service Board & Anor.

The Plaintiff, through his counsel, Tunde Ahmed Adejumo, had, in an Originating Summons prayed the court to declare that, by virtue 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 him, 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 June 24, 2019.

The Court in its judgment was of the view that the 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 are exempted from import duty and other related charges.

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The Court 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 Defendants 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, the Defendants had to establish via cogent and credible evidence that the said bag was meant for sale, exchange or barter.

Accordingly, “The Defendants, 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”.

The Court held in the judgment that the decision and action of the Defendants to demand and collect from the Plaintiff import duty and other related charges in respect of his personal effect is unlawful, null and void.

The trial judge, who is also the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court then ordered the Defendants to refund the sum of N156, 955. 20  in import duty and other related charges to the Plaintiff and to also pay to the Plaintiff the sum of N5 million 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.

NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

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