COURTROOM NEWS 22/06/2022
Lawyer Drags Customs Service To Court For Alleged Extortion And Illegal Detention At Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport
A legal practitioner, Chikaosolu Ojukwu, has filed a N160 million suit against the Nigeria Customs Service Board and the Nigeria Customs Service as damages over his unlawful detention and extortion by men of the Service.
In the suit before the Abuja division of the Federal High Court, Ojukwu, through his counsel, Segun Fiki, is seeking the determination of the court as to whether he is liable to pay import duty, value-added tax and other levies to the defendants in respect of his personal effects, in view of the provisions of Section 8 of the Customs, Excise Tariff, etc (Consolidation) Act and paragraph 7 of the Second Schedule to the Customs, Excise Tariff, etc (Consolidation) Act.
The court also urged to decide whether or not in view of the s of Section 8 of the Customs, Excise Tariff, etc (Consolidation) Act and paragraph 7 of the Second Schedule to the Custom, Excise Tariff, etc (Consolidation) Act, the defendants are entitled to impose and collect duty on the baggage and personal effects of the plaintiff and indeed any other Nigerian who has not been outside the jurisdiction of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for not less than 9 months.
Whether or not the detention of the plaintiff by restraining him from leaving the airport premises to take his medications until he pays the import duty, value-added tax and other levies of 4 pieces of iPhone 13 Pro is unlawful.
Whether or not the detention of the 4 pieces iPhone 13 Pro by the defendants after the payment of the import duty, value-added tax and other levies is unlawful and violates the plaintiff’s right to property as guaranteed under the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights.
He asked the court to declare that the unlawful detention of the plaintiff by restraining him from leaving the airport premises to take his medications until he pays the import duty, value-added tax and other levies on the 4 pieces of iPhone 13 Pro amounts to unlawful arrest and detention.
He also sought an order of the court directing the defendants to refund the total sum of N404,417, being the import duty, value-added tax (VAT) and other levies which were unlawfully demanded and collected from the plaintiff by the defendants upon his arrival at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja on the 20th of February 2023.
Specifically, in an affidavit in support of the originating summons deposed to by Oludare Jesdudamilola a Litigation Secretary in the law firm of Ojukwu Chikaosolu, she averred that:
The plaintiff travelled to Paris on the 12th of February 2022 from the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos aboard Lufthansa Airline. And proceeded to the United Kingdom on February 14th for a business meeting.
He told the court that while in the United Kingdom, he purchased 4 iPhone 13 Pro phones for his personal use and a birthday gift for his cousin. That he returned to Nigeria on the 20th of February 2022 onboard Lufthansa Airline landing at Nnamani Azikiwe International Airport Abuja.
That upon his arrival at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja he was rudely accosted by persons dressed in traditional attire without bearing any official identity.
That he initially thought that these Persons were officials of the State Security Service in plain clothes, only to discover upon further interaction with them that they were in fact officers of the Nigeria Customs Service.
That the said officers ordered his baggage to be taken to a certain room where several operatives including those of the NDLEA and other agencies started touching and tampering with his bags.
That these officers as well as those of the 1st and 2nd defendants (1st defendant Nigeria Customs Service Board and 2nd defendant Nigeria Customs Service) started harassing him as well as making several derogatory statements against his person.
That the said Customs officers searched his luggage and in the proc found and seized that said four iPhone 13 Pro which they unilaterally valued at N1,961,760( one million nine hundred and sixty-one thousand, seven hundred and sixty naira).
That the said Customs officers demanded that the plaintiff pay N404,417.00( four hundred and forty-four thousand four hundred and seven naira) in respect of the said phones.
That he informed the said officers that considering the fact that the phones were for his personal use and not for sale, exchange or barter, he was not obligated to pay import duty or any other levies on them.
That he informed the officers that he needed to take his medications and he would return after doing so, but they refused and restrained him from doing so.
That despite the foregoing the officers insisted and compelled him to pay the amount imposed on the items which he promptly did, using his ATM Card vide a First Bank POS terminal handed over to him at the Customs Desk by the officers. The plaintiff’s account was thereafter successfully debited with the sum of N404,417.00 in favour of your the Nigeria Customs Service from an account domiciled in Zenith Bank Plc.
That despite having made the aforementioned payment the officers of the Nigeria Customs Service refused to release the seized items to him and stubbornly prevented him from leaving the area, on the grounds that they have not seen the payment alert.
That even when he informed the officers in question that he had to leave urgently to take his medications, he was still allowed to leave the premises.
That it took the intervention of well-meaning and influential Nigerians including the Deputy Senate President before he was allowed to get water to take his drugs.
He contended that the actions of the defendants are unjustified, oppressive, malicious and actuated by bad faith and malice and urged the court to grant his relief.
Meanwhile, the defendants had in their defence asked the court to dismiss the suit in its entirety.
The court, presided over by Justice Ahmad Mohammed, after allowing counsel in the suit Segun Fiki for the plaintiff, Ikechukwu Emeto, for the 1st and 2nd defendants and Emmanuel Obeta for the 3rd defendant, adopting the written addresses, fixed July 5th for judgment in the suit.