Personal Effects:Why Customs May Head To Court Over Judgment

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By Stephen Ubanna

Those who think that the Customs Authorities will not challenge the Justice John Tosoho, of the  Abuja High Court , Judgment, ordering it to refund the N155,955.20 import duty and other charges paid by Kehinde Olarewaju, a senior Avocate of Nigeria, SAN to him on his personal effects at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, and a penalty of N5 million  would be disappointed.

An insiders told The Value News that, although the  Authorities respect the Court Judgment and the N5 million  cost awarded in  favour of the Legal luminary, but will appeal against the it but it will against it. Joseph Attah, a deputy Comptroller and the Customs Spokesperson also confirmed it.

. it was learnt that the  Authorities have approached  its  Lawyers in readiness to meet the  Tunde Adejumo, the SAN’s Lawyers  in Court, again  to resume the case, which legal experts believe  may be in their favour because of the facts on ground.

. Note that goods contained  in  passengers luggage, personal effects  which are not intended  for barter, exchange  or s;ales      are  exempted from import duty,  going by the Customs and excise Management Act, CEMA, section 8 and schedule 2.

 The worry of the SAN who had  had dragged Hameed Ali , a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria  Customs Service, NCS, and the Service to Court in 2019, may have been informed by the fact  that the Customs Authorities had amended the section 8 and schedule 2 of the CEMA, in order to collect import duties  on personnel goods , which  he said gave the Customs officials  at the Airport the  opportunity to Collect N155,955.20  as import duty on his personal effects.

Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja

 The parties were said to  have been going to Court between last year  and  Wednesday , May 13, 2020, when Justice Tsoho, of the Abuja High Court delivered Judgment on the  case by ordering the Service to  refund the N155,955.20 import duty collected from the SAN and also slammed  a 5 million cost as exemplary damage  on the revenue generating agency.

Going by the  CEMA, for  a traveller  to qualify to have personal effects that could be exempted from import duties and other related charges, he or she must have stayed abroad  for a consistent of nine months.

A senior Customs officer at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Ikeja, Lagos, who spoke to The Magazine  disclosed  that  the section  of the Act  at was   quoted  by the Abuja High Court trial Judge   was a broad outline  of the Law ,noting that the technical explanation  is enshrined in a Customs leaflet on  Concessions to passenger personal effects s which is where it  was  categorically  stated that the ‘’nine months period  must be consistent  before  the passenger  can qualify  to have personal effects that could be exempted from import duties’’.

Ali, the Customs Comptroller General ,may have known that the Service  has a good  case  that  he is not having a sleepless night over the Court  Judgment.   A passenger’s luggage, according to the CEMA, could only  enjoy the  concession on  personal effects if it is within the range of  N50,000.00.

 Business analysts  believe that until the Law is reviewed to allow  travelers to buy goods  between N500,000.00 and N1 million,   which could be declared as personal effects, travellers , will continue to have problem with the Customs personnel  at the Airport  for trying to enforce the government Law of the N50,000.00, worth of personal effects .

 Unconfirmed reports said the  SAN  may have had personal effects  which was above the N50,00, approved by the  Law, which provided ammunition  for the   Customs officers on duty  to collect import duty and other related charges from him after valuation.

Perhaps to avoid this Continuous Controversy between the Customs and the Foreign based  travellers over their  luggage  goods , there is need for Hajia Zainab Ahmed , minister of Finance  Budget and national Planning  and the Customs Board to take another look on the CEMA, and domesticate the  sections and schedules that will  serve the country better, particular, the area that has to do with Concessions to travellers personal effects at the Airports.

Note that  foreign based Nigerians relocating back to the country  with their household goods  never experience  such Controversy at the  seaports, because the  CEMA,  was very clear  on it.

Such Household goods are made to enjoy duty free and  the  agent of the foreign based returnee could only take delivery of the House goods with the provision of his International Passport of his Client to Confirm true ownership.

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