Court awards N5.5 billion damages against Nigerian Customs for unlawful rice seizure

A Federal High Court in Abuja, on Wednesday, July 10, awarded N5.5 billion damages against the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) over an unlawful seizure of 90 containers of rice imported by a firm.

Also affected by the N5.5 billion damages is the Chairman of the Nigerian Customs Service Board (NCSB).

The Nation reports that the firm had stated in its suit, marked FHC/CA/CS/40/2017, that officers of the customs had on March 18, 2017, invaded and sealed up its warehouse in the Tinapa Free Trade Zone, Calabar, Cross River state.

The warehouse, according to the suit, contained about 90 containers of rice stored in air-tight containers. The officers, the plaintiff said, sealed the warehouse with what was inside after which they stole parts of the seized rice and detained another 40 trucks containing 317 transit containers of the product heading for the Tinapa Free Trade Zone.

Justice Inyang Ekwo, who upheld the plaintiff’s claim, ruled that the first and second respondents being the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and the Chairman, NCSB acted unlawfully and without any justification in law.

The court said it found that customs officers also stole the plaintiff’s rice while the case was pending adding that such conduct by men of the agency remains condemnable.

The Judge awarded specific and general damages against the first and second defendants to the tune of N3,805,638,950 and $4,796,550 while granting an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from further unlawfully interfering with the business transactions of the plaintiff within the Tinapa Free Trade Zone.

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