Importer expresses frustration over 20-year old court case against Customs

As proceedings lingered over the years in a case involving the Chairman and Chief Executive of Mega Games Ltd Dr Chitto Obowu, his company Awogwiri Industries Nigeria Limited (the plaintiff) and the Nigeria Customs Service (the defendant), the plaintiff’s lawyer, Barrister Ajibola Ariba yesterday stated his client’s disinterested in the case because the matter has lingered unduly and the amount they prayed the court for damages has lost value.

The matter however continued for trial before Hon. Justice M.B Idris of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on the advice that the case should adopt record of previous proceedings.

Hearing resumed at the Court in a statement of claim by the plaintiff that the first defendant is the Federal Government agency by virtue of its position to collect duties on behalf of the Federal Government on incoming goods to the country before releasing them to their respective owners at Tin Can Island Port.

The plaintiff in October 1996 reportedly imported some used computer video components for the education and entertainment of children to expand her outfit that could no longer cater for the surging number of children coming forward to benefit. The computer video components were bought at public auction in UK and arrived at Nigerian Tin Can Island through a ship called Kotlini on voyage No. 6671 in January 19th, 1997 with bill of entry No. 300019 showing total bills paid to the hands of the defendants

However, the goods imported were checked by the Nigeria Customs for home use and endorsed by the security personnel who authorized the release but one of the officers of the customs in charge of signatories for reasons best known to him refused to append his signature claiming wrong classification of the items.

The 2nd Defendant, Customs Area Controller Tin Can Island put a notice of incorrect entry form (Form C 101 A). The custom however refused to release the goods to the plaintiff and referred the matter to their headquarters at Abuja for another physical examination and advice on proper clarification.

The plaintiff clearing agent, Joki Nigeria Limited wrote several letters about the position of the items but they kept silent. When the clearing agent got to Tin Can Island Lagos as directed from Abuja, the defendant had already sold the items. The plaintiff claim against the defendants jointly and severally, that the used and functional computer video components were legally imported goods and not prohibited by any law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The plaintiff is now seeking an order that the defendant jointly and severally pay to the plaintiff the sum of N6.187million being special and general damages.

The case was handled initially by Hon Justice Ukeje (rtd) according to the plaintiff lawyer, Ariba who in his own reaction said the matter had suffered several administrative challenges.


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