Lagos High Court Awards N500m Damages against Customs for Sealing Auto Shops

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to pay the sum of N500 million in damages to the Registered Trustees of Auto Dealers in Lagos for illegally sealing the shops of its members since 2019.

Justice Abimbola Olawunmi Awogboro, in her judgment delivered on December 27, 2023, gave the order directing the NCS to pay to the plaintiff (Registered Trustees of Auto Dealers in Lagos) the sum of N500 million as general and aggravated damages for the arbitrary and unlawful invasion and sealing off of the plaintiff’s members’ business premises, and for the huge economic loss and depreciation in business fortunes of the plaintiff’s members on account of the unlawful sealing off of their business premises since September 30, 2019.

The Registered Trustees of Auto Dealers in Lagos had sued the Nigeria Customs Service Board and the Comptroller-General of Customs for the illegal invasion and sealing of 434 car marts/shops by some officers of the NCS on September 30, 2019, on the grounds that the cars were either smuggled or under-assessed during clearance at the ports.

Delivering judgment in the suit number FHC/L/CS/665/2021, the judge also held that the sealing of the car marts of the plaintiff’s members was unlawful and arbitrary, adding that there was no justification for the unlawful act.

According to Justice Awogboro, the argument by the defendants that some members of the plaintiff undertook to make additional payment of import duty as a result of which their car marts were unsealed was not tenable and did not in any way support or justify the arbitrary action of the defendants because those members did not agree to do so willingly but out of coercion and duress, to enable them carry on with their business.

The judge granted the major reliefs sought by the plaintiff and an order of mandatory injunction directing the defendants to, with immediate effect, unseal the business premises of all members of the plaintiff, which was unlawfully and arbitrarily sealed by officials of the defendants since September 30, 2019.

The judge also issued an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from further invading and sealing the business premises of the members of the plaintiff on the ground that the vehicles in their car shops which had earlier been inspected, assessed and cleared at the port by officers of the defendant were not properly inspected, assessed and cleared.

Source: Ships & Ports

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