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.
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.