The acting President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Dr. Kayode Farinto has dragged Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to the Federal High Court in Lagos over alleged unlawful and morally wrong practices.
Farinto, who instituted the legal action via the Kayfar Freight Forwarders Forum, filed an originating summon with seven prayers on December 13th, 2021, but the court hearing held on Wednesday in Lagos.
The prayers include; whether Customs has the locus to arbitrarily increase duty on Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) without following the provisions as contained in the Valuation Act 20 of 2003; whether the field officers of Customs (especially Federal Operations Unit), after issuance of PAAR and its arbitrary increase, should still query the value issued on PAAR and still subject such importation to re-appraisal of duty which is another form of increment.
The legal action also sought to clarify if these actions of Customs do not amount to double standards which is contrary to the World Trade Organization (WTO) article on facilitation of trade Agreement which Nigeria is a signatory to.
Speaking with The News Diet after the hearing, the plantiff’s legal counsel, Barr. Oladele Olaniyi said; “An originating summon was filed by Kayfar Freight Forwarders on December 13th 2021 wherein we asked for an order and a declaration on the PAAR being arbitrarily issued by Customs. We want the court to determine whether Customs has the authority to arbitrarily increase the PAAR without recourse to the Valuation Act of 2003.”
“When a container has been released from a terminal, why do we have a situation that another set of Customs officials confiscate the cargoes to do another reassessment of the already released cargoes. It’s like double jeopardy on freight forwarders and the Nigerian economy. At the end of the day, these unnecessary charges will be paid by the consumers causing inflation. The World Trade Organization (WTO) which Nigeria is signatory to, frowns at such kind of practice.”
He, however, expressed displeasure at Customs attempt to frustrate the case as the NCS filed a counter-affidavit that was put in the court file without serving Kayfar and its legal team.
“This action is an attempt to frustrate this matter because they know the truth. The good thing is that the matter has been adjourned for definite hearing on October 12th, 2022,” he said.
Also speaking, Dr. Farinto stated that CEMA makes provision for evasion and avoidance of duty to penalize offenders; hence, he beckoned on the court to differentiate practitioners who evade duties from those who make duty payments based on PAAR.
“One of our prayers is the issue of 25 percent penalty because we want the court to differentiate between duty avoidance and duty evasion. In FIRS law which is a matter of revenue, there is a difference between someone who avoided paying duties and someone who paid but didn’t make the actual payment. These two categories of people are different and should be penalized with 25 percent payment,” Farinto stated.
He lamented that after the hurdles of clearing of cargoes from the port amid the multiplicity of Customs units at ports, over 98% of such cargoes after exiting the port are still intercepted by other units of the Service.
Meanwhile, Customs were fined a penalty of N50,000 by the court as cost of delay, after the plantiff demanded N100,000 for cost of the day.
The N50,000 penalty is to be paid by Customs on or before the next adjourned date on October 12th, 2022.