In February this year, a colleague ordered for an iPhone as a valentine gift to his wife. On arrival, it was seized by customs and he was asked to pay import duty on the item. He had to pay to clear the item so as to present it as planned.

Unknown to many Nigerians, import duty is not supposed to be paid on items meant for personal use. Import duty is usually paid only on goods that are meant to be resold or in large quantity. For example, you can’t order for 20 phones or shoes and convince anyone that they are for personal use.

Yesterday, a federal judge in Abuja ruled that it was unlawful for customs to have collected the sum of N156,955.20k as import duty on a Louis Vuitton laptop bag found in the personal baggage of a customer. Quoting copiously from the customs and excise duty act, the Judge awarded the sum of N5m against customs, and asked them to refund the import duty paid by the customer.

The joy for me here is that someone decided to go to court to challenge what apparently was a clear case of abuse of power, likely fuelled by crass ignorance by customs. I am very sure that many Nigerians would have had similar experiences, paid the money or forfeited the item and just moved on to avoid “trouble”.

That is the sort of defeatist mentality we mostly exhibit each time our fundamental rights are grossly violated.

One is forced to ask, is it that customs weren’t aware of their own laws? On what basis did they decide to extort Nigerians whose only crime was that they decided to shop for items abroad? How many other Nigerians have had similar experiences and didn’t talk?

In a similar case, earlier in the year, a lady went to a Chinese restaurant in Lagos and was told that she couldn’t sit down to eat except she does a take away. She sort to know why, and was told by a fellow Nigerian working in the restaurant that it was the company policy.

A policy to exclude Nigerians from eating in a restaurant in their own country? Not satisfied, the lady requested to see the manager and she was bluntly told by the Chinese man that eat-in was only for Chinese and white nationals, while Nigerians were only allowed to order for take away. Infuriated by this grand policy of segregation in Lagos of all places, the lady recorded a video of the incident and it went viral.

The Lagos state government acted swiftly and sealed off the restaurant for further investigations. Do you know how many Nigerians might have also suffered similar humiliation and decided to just order and go to avoid “trouble”?

It took one responsible citizen to act properly to change what was apparently wrong. Curiously, the restaurant has been operating for years. We can’t sit down, fold our hands and expect this country to change without doing anything.

As a citizen, if you haven’t played your role, you have no right to demand performance from government. A lot of us are extremely docile to the point that if we are asked by a government agency to pay tax for breathing in air, we will pay just to avoid “trouble”

The office of the citizen is the most important office in a democracy. If citizens refuse to play their own roles, then they should stop complaining about government.

We must resist what we don’t like so as to force a change. If Rosa Parks hadn’t refused to give up her seat years ago, probably the segregation laws in the US would have lasted much longer.

I have narrated these two incidents today to show that unless and until we demand for the country of our dreams and each of us is ready to do something about it, we will continue to live in these degrading conditions. If you can talk, talk. If you can write, write. If you can sue, sue.

If you can protest, protest. Whatever you can, just do it! What is unacceptable is extreme docility.

#MercyfulGrace #Aremuorin #Staywoke #BlackLivesMatter

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Àrèmúorin – Anthony Everest is a Jazz, Soul-R&B Multi Award Winning Singer-Songwriter, Author, Producer. No1, 49+ Weeks, Jazz Charts. (C) 2019 MercyfulGrace / Anthony Everest All Rights Reserved
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