A Federal High Court in Abuja, has ordered the Nigerian Customs Service board and the Nigerian Customs Service to pay constitutional Lawyer Chikaosolu Ojukwu, the sum of N5 million as damages for unlawfully detaining him and seizure of his personal effects.
The court said the act was a violation of his fundamental rights by men of the Customs service under the guise of collecting import duties and other levies for his four iPhone 13 Pro phones.
The Court also held that Nigerians who have not been outside Nigeria for at least nine months are not required by law to pay import duties on their personal effects not meant for sale, exchange or barter.
In his judgment, Justice Ahmad Mohammed held that the plaintiff’s case was unchallenged and ought to be deemed admitted, as the affidavit evidence of the 1st and 2nd defendants amounted to hearsay evidence having not been given by a person who witnessed the transaction.
The court acknowledged that the plaintiff proved his case against the 1st and 2nd defendants through the documentary evidence placed before the Court, such as the debit alert receipt and bank statements.
Consequently, the court held that the plaintiff had proved his case against the Nigerian Customs Service and therefore granted reliefs 1, 2, 3 ,4, 5 and 6 in the plaintiff’s originating summons.
Importantly, the court also held that it is satisfied that Ojukwu’s four IPhone 13 pro phones are personal effects which are exempted from the payment of import duties, being items not meant for sale, exchange or barter.
Justice Mohammed opined that the Plaintiff and indeed every Nigeria is not liable to pay import duty, value added tax and other levies to the defendants in respect of such 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 Act and awarded damages against the 1st and 2nd Defendants for their actions.
According to Justice Mohammed, “I am of the firm view that the seized items are the personal effects of the plaintiff and not for sale and barter and ought not to be paid duty on. I award the sun N5million against the 1st and 2nd defendants.”
The court further ordered the Nigerian Customs Service to release the four IPhone 13pro that were seized from Ojukwu and to refund the total sum of N404,417 (Four Hundred and Four Thousand, Four Hundred and Seventeen Naira) being the import duty, value added tax (VAT) and other levies which were unlawfully collected from the plaintiff.