Story By Roland Ekama
Due process was not followed in assigning the task of economic regulator of the ports to the Nigerian Shippers Council, the Nigerian Maritime Law Association (NMLA) has said.
The stance of the maritime lawyers is coming as the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, has set up a committee to review admiralty laws in Nigeria and gather relevant data on cases relating to admiralty disputes. The committee's work is a prelude to the introduction of courses on admiralty laws into the curricula of law faculties of the nation's universities.
Speaking after a delegation of the NMLA paid a working visit to the Nigerian Shippers' Council in Lagos, Mr. Chidi Ilogu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said the association is ready to partner with other agencies of government in the maritime industry to ensure that things are done in a way that it would provide a conducive environment of doing business at the nation's ports.
"We appreciate the role of the Shippers Council but the approach is rather controversial and this is why some of these cases are in court, the laws have not been updated to reflect the changes effected by the government.
"The laws were not amended, all they needed to have done was to amend the Council's enabling Act so as to give it the requisite powers.
"However a good number of things could be done with the understanding of all industry players to ensure that practical issues are addressed and this is what we are doing", Ilogu stated.
He said that the essence of the visit to the Council was to underscore the importance of working together in achieving the goal of easing the challenges of doing business at Nigerian ports.
Receiving the delegation from NMLA, Barrister Hassan Bello, executive secretary of the council, said the ministerial committee to review admiralty laws has two members from NMLA.
He assured that the legal department of the council will gather veritable data on admiralty cases, promising that the Council intends to play a pivotal role in determining how far admiralty cases are being resolved.
Bello noted that there is inadequate knowledge of admiralty laws in Nigeria and the Shippers Council is taking up the challenge of ensuring the gap is filled.
"When we visited the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmoud Mohammed, on January 2 this year, Justice Tanko Mohammed and Justice Peter Odili were there, they all tasked us to champion the inclusion of maritime law in the curricula of all schools, especially in faculties of law of Nigerian universities by collaborating with the Nigerian University Commission", Bello said.
The Shippers Council boss pledged to support the association with a brand new bus for its activities after the 2017 budget is approved.