Automobile Company Slams N299m Suit On Nigeria Customs

An automobile company, Conquest Authentic Motors Nigeria Limited has slammed N299 million on Nigeria Customs Service and the Comptroller General of Customs over alleged refusal to release its goods.

Meanwhile, a Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos, has restrained the defendant from deposing off the consignments pending the final determination of the suit filed before it.

The order of the presiding judge, Justice Mohammed Liman, was as a result of a suit filed before the court on behalf of the company by Barrister Onyebuchi Aniakor.

In a statement of claim, it was alleged that sometimes in January 2009, Conquest Authentic Motors Nigeria Limited imported into Nigeria, a consignment of Alphajine battery comprising five containers from the Republic of South Korea and engaged the services of a licensed customs clearing agent, one Uche Jonas and his company, Great Link International Agencies Limited, to clear the goods.

The company paid a total sum of N8 million for the clearing job, but the job was not done as the requisite duties were not paid.

Thereafter, the Managing Director of the company, Mr. Christopher Mbaezuogu and its Operations Manager, Mr. Tobena Arinze, in March 2009, were constrained to make another payment of N5,053,555, independent of the customs agent. This payment of duty was duly assessed by the Nigeria Customs Service, but instead of releasing the goods, the plaintiff was shocked when the Customs at the Apapa Port served it with notification of underpayment. Consequently, the company was compelled to pay an additional sum of N1,666,001.

It was further alleged that the Customs Service accused Uche Jonas Edom of an attempt to forge an Access Bank and Nigeria Customs payment acknowledgement in the sum of N5,053,55 and based on this development, the plaintiff petitioned the office of the Inspector-General of Police, to investigate the alleged criminal act.

It was at this stage when the Inspector General ordered that investigation should be conducted that Nigeria Customs Service, Apapa Port, claimed to have started their own investigation through the Nigeria Police, Port Command.

After the investigation by the Inspector General of Police team, their report showed that the plaintiff is not only innocent but a victim of fraudulent act and that notwithstanding the police advice and several entreaties, officials of the Nigeria Customs Service, Apapa, have failed to release the plaintiff’s consignment as they claim not to have concluded their own investigation.

However, on 9 April this year, the plaintiff was shocked to discover that the brand of its good had begun to enter the market and was later discovered that the consignment is being disposed of by the Customs.

On further inquiry, it was discovered that one Salawu Adeniyi was the owner of the consignment auctioned sale and one Shehu Aliyu as the payer, while complaints to the Customs Service by the plaintiff did not yield any fruitful result.

The plaintiff then mandated his solicitor, Barrister Onyebuchi Amakor, to initiate this legal action, claiming against Nigeria Customs Service N199,215,107.30, being the cost of its consignment and loss of profit as well as N100 million as exemplary damages for the wrongful detention and refusal to release its consignment.