Eric Ikhilae, Abuja
THE Court of Appeal in Abuja has upheld a N3.82 billion and $4.95 million monetary judgment against the Nigerian Customs Service Board (NCSB) and its Chairman by a Federal High Court in Abuja.
A three-man panel of the Appellate Court, in a unanimous judgment by Justice Emmanuel Agim, dismissed an appeal filed by the NCSB and its chairman.
In dismissing the appeal, the appellate court held that the Federal High Court was in order when it held in favour of the plaintiff – Maggpiy Trading TFZE – in the judgment given by Justice Inyang Ekwo on July 10, 2019.
In the judgment given on August 20, 2020, Justices Agim, Peter Ige and Yargata Nimpar (of the Court of Appeal) were unanimous in holding that the appellants (NCSB and its chairman) failed to fault the judgment by Justice Ekwo.
Maggpiy Trading had sued the NCSB, 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 firm added that without any provocation and after accepting N53 million from it as stamp duties, men of the NCS 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 defendants 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, it had incurred heavy costs and that most of what was left of the consignment had been destroyed.
The defendants 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.