Seized rice: Court orders Customs to pay firm N5.5bn damages 

CG Customs Hameed Ali

Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Hameed Ali.

A Federal High Court in Abuja has awarded damages amounting to over N5.5 billion against the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the Chairman, Nigeria Customs Service Board (NCSB) over the unlawful seizure of 90 containers of rice imported by a firm, Maggpiy Trading TFZE.

Maggpiy stated in its suit marked FHC/CA/CS/40/2017 that on March 18, 2017, Customs officials invaded and sealed up its warehouse in the Tinapa Free Trade Zone (TFTZE), Calabar, containing about 90 containers of rice stored in air-tight containers.

The plaintiff said in addition to sealing its warehouse with its content, officials of the NCS stole part of the seized rice and detained its 40 trucks, containing 317 transit containers of rice, destined for the Tinapa Free Trade Zone without lawful justification for 120 days along Onne, Port-Harcourt road.

In a judgment on Wednesday, Justice Inyang Ekwo upheld the plaintiff’s claim and held that the 1st and 2nd respondents – NCS and the Chairman, NCSB – acted unlawfully and without any justification in law.

Justice Ekwo found that Customs officials also pilfered the plaintiff’s rice while the case was pending and said such conduct by officials of the 1st and 2nd defendant is condemnable.

The judge granted all the reliefs by the plaintiff and awarded specific and general damages against the 1st and 2nd defendants to the tune of N3,805,638,950 and $4,796,550.

Justice Ekwo also granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from further unlawfully interfering with the lawful business transactions of the plaintiff within the Tinapa Free Trade Zone.