By Godfrey Bivbere
The Nigeria Customs Service, NCS has said it N11 million to Nocklink paid Ventures Limited for improper disposal of the firm’s consignment following an order by the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.
Nocklink Ventures Limited had dragged Customs to court in case number FHC/L/CS/769/2008 following the seizure its consignment of children’s unisex foot-wears, cross-trekkers which the Service alleged were men’s footwear that was banned by the federal government.
In the course of the claim for damages, importer produced evidence that the real value of the goods was declared and appropriate duty paid, and that the consignment was not on the banned list.
Disclosing this in Lagos in his paper presentation titled “Ethics and Integrity in Shipping Trade” at an enlightenment workshop for shippers by the Nigerian Shippers Council and the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, SON, a legal practitioner, Osuala Emmanuel Nwagbara, stressed the need for shippers to be upright in the business transaction.
Nwagbara explained that for the uprightness of the importer in the right declaration and payment of duty, the importer would not have been able to approach the courts.
According to him, “In the case of Nocklink Ventures Ltd vs Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, FHC/L/CS/769/2008, the importer’s consignment was seized by the Nigerian Customs Service and while the importer approached the Court for redress, the NCS sold the consignment on auction on the allegation that children’s unisex foot-wears (cross-trekkers) were men’s footwear which was banned.
“In the course of a claim for damages, importer produced evidence that the real value of the goods was declared and appropriate duty paid, and that the consignment was not on the banned list.
“The court awarded damages against the NCS in the sum of N11m and it was paid by the Service. It was a clear case of intimidation of the importer by the NCS. This again illustrates how institutions of government could engage in unethical practices in shipping trade” he noted.
He decried the absence of sanctions against government agencies in the law establishing them should they act in a way that outside their establishing law. He pointed out that until something is done about the above, these government agencies would continue to act arbitrarily.
In another case to buttress the need for shippers to be upright in their dealings, he said there was a case of broaching and stealing of the contents N15 million by thieves while at the Brawal terminal.
He said the terminal operator had offered to pay a compensation of N10 million which the shipper turn down and the matter went to court. At the end of the case, the court awarded less than N5 million to the shipper because of a false declaration by the freight forwarder.
In his words, “Freight Forwarders and Clearing Agents are not innocent in this charge of offences against ethics and integrity in the shipping trade. In Brawal v Ometraco Int’l Ltd CA/L/121/2007, the Plaintiff’s container was broached and contents evacuated by thieves while at the terminal.
“The importer lost over N15m worth of goods as a result of the theft. It sued the operator of the terminal. In the course of leading evidence, the importer produced the SGD which showed that the clearing agent under-declared the value of the consignment with duty under-payment and this worked against the importer. The court held that in assessing the value of the consignment imported, the value stated in the SGD was to be given important consideration.
“The clearing agent killed the business of the importer, with this unethical practice. The company, in turn, sacked many of its workers and increased the number of unemployed people in the country. This is how this deprecated practice can affect our country as a whole,” he concluded.