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Customs To Cough Out N3.8B, $4.9M Over Unlawful Rice Seizures

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*As Appeal Court upholds N3.8b, $4.9m verdict.

Kayode Lawal

The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) is to cough out a whopping sum of N3.8B and another $4.9M for engaging in unlawful seizures of containers of rice legally imported into the country by a trading company.

This followed the Court of Appeal in Abuja upholding a N3.82 billion and $4.95 million monetary judgment against the Customs Service Board (NCSB) and its Chairman.

A Federal High Court also in Abuja had last year ordered the Customs to the trading company, Maggpy Trading TFZE the huge sum lost by the company as a result of unlawful seizures of its rice consignment in its warehouses.

Justice Inyang Eden Ekwo had on July 10, 2019 in a judgment issued the order upon finding Customs liable for loses incurred by the company as a result of unlawful actions against its business in Nigeria.

Dissatisfied by the high court judgment against it, the Customs had approached the Court of Appeal with prayers that the judgment be set aside to escape the payment of the huge sum awarded against it.

But a three-man panel of the Appellate Court, in a unanimous judgment by Justice Emmanuel Agim, dismissed the appeal filed by the Customs and its chairman.

In dismissing the appeal, the Appellate Court held that the Federal High Court was right in ordering that the plaintiff – Maggpiy Trading TFZE – be paid the huge sum as damages for the loses caused it by Customs in its legs businesses.

In the Appeal Court judgment, Justices Emmanuel Agim, Peter Ige and Yargata Nimpar were unanimous in holding that the appellants (Customs and its chairman) failed to fault the judgment by Justice Ekwo.

They therefore upheld the high court verdict and affirmed the order on the Customs to pay the huge sum to the company.

Maggpiy Trading had sued the Customs its Chairman and the National Security Adviser (NSA), claiming that on March 18, 2017, officials of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) unjustly sealed off its warehouses located within the Tinapa Free Trade Zone and Resort (TFTZR) in Calabar, the Cross River State capital.

It averred that the warehouses, at the time they were sealed off by men of the NCS, contained 90 containers of rice with each of the containers holding 540 bags of rice.

The company added that without any breach of law and after accepting N53M from it as stamp duties, men of the Customs also detained by the road side at Onne, Port Harcourt in Rivers State, 40 trucks with which it was transporting 317 transit containers of rice to its Tinapa Free Trade Zone and Resort facility.

Maggpiy Trading also said its warehouses were eventually unsealed after over four months and that it was compelled by the Customs to re-export the imported rice to Cotonou in Benin Republic on July 28, 2017.

The firm stated that it found that some of the containers had been stolen making it to incur heavy costs and that most of what was left of the consignment had been destroyed.

The Customs denied any wrongdoing, claiming that the plaintiff (Maggpiy Trading) breached Federal Government’s fiscal policy on the importation of any physical goods into Nigeria.

They argued that the plaintiff’s action of importing rice into the country “was calculated to undermine the government’s fiscal policy on food security, which is meant to encourage local production of rice, and the ban on importation of rice through the land boarder.

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