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Firm sues Customs over alleged illegal detention

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Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Retired Col. Hameed Ali.

Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Retired Col. Hameed Ali.

For alleged illegal detention of it’s Managing Director, Mr. Christian Ukata, a Shipping firm, Afriglobe Shipping Lines Ltd, has filed N50 million suit against the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) before the Federal High Court, Lagos.

In a motion on notice filed on behalf of the firm by Charles Ugwuanyi Chambers, Mr. Ukata was wrongfully detained by NCS officials attached to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos sometime in November 2015 for being in possession of foreign exchange, which he had voluntarily declared at the NCS desk.

The applicant averred that in November 2015, it was contracted by Aerodocs Inc. USA to clear its cargo at Chad and deliver same to Millicom, Chad at an agreed cost of USD$46,731.The payment according to the firm, was subsequently made through Access Bank Plc.

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It stated that after confirming the arrival of the cargo at Ndjamena Airport, it withdrew USD$42,200 from the amount paid into its Access Bank Plc account and detailed its Managing Director, Mr Christian Ukata to travel to Ndjamena via Duala Airport for the purpose of clearing and delivering the cargo.

The claimant also stated that Ukata made arrangement to travel on November 15, 2015– with the view of clearing the cargo on November 16, so as to avoid incurring demurrage, but on getting to the Lagos Airport, he (Ukata) went through all the departure formalities including declaring the USD$42,200 with him before two NCS officials, one Mrs Oshilaja and Mr K.S Ugboaja.

Also, the applicant noted that Ukata declared foreign exchange accompanied with relevant Waybills, Invoice and Inflow advise from Access Bank Plc, to establish the legitimacy of the source and the use of the fund.

The firm alleged that following Ukata’s refusal to tip NCS officials, he was prevented from traveling, detained at the NCS Airport cell until the next day when he was transferred to the Ikoyi office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). But EFCC cleared him of money laundering allegation.

However, in its statement of defence, NCS has absolved itself of any wrongdoing, stating that its two officials who were on duty when the incident happened were members of a Presidential Committee on Trans-Border Cash Movement and were taking directives from the Presidency and not Nigeria Customs Service.Justice Abdulaziz Anka will hear the matter on September 19, 2016.


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