Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd.), Comproller-General of Customs with NCS Personnel at Idiroko, Ogun State

Businessman drags Customs, AGF to court over border closure

* Claims closure infringes on rights under African Charter on Human Rights

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

In spite of the Nigerian Government’s claims that the partial closure of Nigeria’s land borders has helped to enhance local production capacity, reduce influx of illegal arms and ammunition used in banditry, among others, Mr. Umeh Ezeh, a businessman, has dragged the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) before a Federal High Court.

The Sun reports that Mr. Ezeh is seeking enforcement of his fundamental human rights and rights under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

In the enforcement of fundamental rights suit filed February 13, 2020, by Mr. Emeka Odikpo, his counsel, Ezeh averred that the closure of Nigeria’s land borders infringed on his fundamental rights and rights under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The Nigeria Customs Service and the Attorney General of the Federation as first and second respondent respectively in the suit filed in Lagos.

Ezeh is seeking a declaration of the court that the NSC does not have the legal power to declare “partial closure of Nigerian land borders and consequently direct that lawful goods cannot be exported or imported by lawful means through Nigerian land borders.”

Ezeh, who is listed as applicant in the suit is seeking a declaration that the directive of the first respondent (Nigeria Customs Service) that “lawful goods cannot be imported or exported through Nigerian land borders, even upon payment of the appropriate duties and taxes violates Sections 41 and 44 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Revised Treaty of Economic Community of West African States.”

It is recalled that the Federal Government, through the NCS, shut Nigeria’s land borders to all movement of goods since August 2019, and there is no timeline for its reopening till date.

Odikpo is seeking an order of the court for perpetual injunction restraining the NCS and AGF jointly and severally, from enforcing the order of partial closure of the land borders in Nigeria with respect to goods that are not subject to any prohibition from importation into Nigeria, save upon the enactment of a valid law by the National Assembly.”

He said the presidential directive was unreasonable and has brought great hardship against small-scale traders who under the ECOWAS treaty and the African Charter on human and people’s rights are entitled to trade freely on legitimate and lawful goods upon payment of due taxes and duties.

The order should be set aside because the transportation of goods by air cargo is highly expensive and only ostentatious goods can be exported or imported through that mode of transportation, he stated.

He said more than 99 per cent of goods that are imported and exported among West African countries can’t afford that.

Odikpo, therefore, asked the court to grant his client’s the relief that the first respondent (Nigeria Customs Service) acted unlawfully as it violates the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and the revised treaty of Economic Community of West African States.

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