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COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF THE 16TH INTERNATIONAL MARITIME SEMINAR FOR JUDGES

COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF THE 16TH INTERNATIONAL MARITIME SEMINAR FOR JUDGES ORGANIZED BY THE NIGERIAN SHIPPERS’ COUNCIL UNDER THE AUSPICIES OF THE FEDERAL MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION IN COLLABORATION WITH THE NATIONAL JUDICIAL INSTITUTE (NJI) HELD FROM 5TH– 7TH JULY 2022 AT THE SHERATON HOTEL AND TOWERS, ABUJA.

INTRODUCTION

The International Maritime Seminar for Judges is held biennially and is organized by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Transport (FMOT) in collaboration with the National Judicial Institute (NJI). The Seminar which has held since 1995, has had the continuous support of the Nigerian Maritime Law Association (NMLA) and has always had participants from other African countries and other stakeholders.

The Seminar is organized for Justices of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and Judges of the Federal High Court and other stakeholders in the maritime sector. It is noteworthy that the Seminar has always held with the active collaboration and participation of the Federal High Court being the Court constitutionally enabled to entertain Admiralty matters in the first instance. The general aim of the Seminar is to sensitize and further enhance knowledge and skills of judicial officers on the adjudication of maritime and admiralty disputes through the proper application of Admiralty Law and to brainstorm on issues that may arise from its application and other related matters.

The 16th International Maritime Seminar for Judges held successfully between 5th and 7th of July, 2022 at the Abuja Sheraton Hotel and Towers. This year’s Seminar discussed contemporary issues and developments in international maritime law and practice especially as they affect port operations and maritime adjudication with a view to equipping judicial officers of the various superior courts in Nigeria and Africa with the necessary jurisprudential knowledge and skills to properly adjudicate and address the myriad of challenges in the maritime sector through a proper understanding and application of maritime law in the adjudication of maritime disputes. Thus, the Seminar served as a veritable platform for achieving the stated aim.

OBJECTIVE:
The objective of the 16th Biennial International Maritime Seminar for Judges was to examine current issues confronting Judicial Officers and all stakeholders in the Maritime Industry and to explore global best practices that would strengthen the industry.

PARTICIPATION:
The Seminar was chaired by the Hon. Jus. Bode Rhodes Viviour, JSC (Rtd.) and was declared open by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman Board of Governors NJI, Hon. Justice Olukayode Ariwoola.
Distinguished personalities in attendance at the opening of the Seminar were: the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria Hon. Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, Hon. Justice. Musa Dattijo Muhammad JSC, Hon. Justice John Inyang Okoro JSC, Hon. Justice Salisu Garba Abdullahi, Administrator, National Judicial Institute, Hon. Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards, Chief Justice of Sierra Leone, Hon. Justice Bode Rhodes Vivour JSC (Rtd), Chairman of the occasion, Hon. Justice John T. Tsoho, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court and Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the Seminar, the Hon. Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, represented by Dr. Hussein Adamu, Director of Procurement, FMOT, and Rt. Hon. Emmanuel Jime Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council, amongst many other dignitaries.

Participants that attended the Seminar included Justices of the Supreme Court Nigeria and some African Countries, President of the Court of Appeal, the Hon. Justice Monica Dongban Mensen, PCA, Hon. Justices of the Court of Appeal of Nigeria and some African countries, Judges of the Federal High Court and other stakeholders in the Maritime industry.

A total of Eighteen (18) papers with different perspectives on the thematic areas of the Seminar were presented.

WHEREAS:
1. The importance of the Seminar was underscored by the presence of Judicial Officers including Chief Justices of other African countries like Gambia, Ghana, Kenya and Sierra Leone, the Hon. Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justices of the Supreme Court, President of the Court of Appeal, Justices of the Court of Appeal and the Hon. Chief Judge and Judges of the Federal High Court of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Legislators, senior government officials, Legal Practitioners, the academia and other stakeholders in the maritime sector.

2. The assemblage of personalities brainstormed and discussed topical issues of concern over a period of three days with a view to adopting best standards and practices that would transform the maritime sector in Nigeria and Africa.

3. The 16th International Maritime Seminar for Judges considered current issues in ports operations and maritime adjudication and practice, and case management in the resolution of maritime disputes and carefully reviewed the challenges inherent in the issues identified and proffered solutions to address the challenges that ensure a more robust and efficient maritime sector.

4. The following well researched papers covering the thematic areas were presented by experts and practitioners in the sector which evoked commentaries from experts in the sector and discussions from the participants:

DAY ONE PAPERS:
First Session:
Session Chairman: Hon. Justice Musa Datijjo Muhammad, JSC.
Paper No. 1:

Application of Torts and Bailment in Bill of Lading Contracts
Resource Person: Mr.Olumide Sofowora, SAN.
Second Session:
Session Chairman: Hon. Justice John Inyang Okoro, JSC

Paper No. 2:

Current Issues in Port Operations (SOP in Ports and Arising Legal Issues, Nigerian Customs E-Vin Valuation Method, Matters Arising)
Resource Persons:

1. Perspective of the Nigerian Customs Service – The Zonal Coordinator, Nigerian Customs Service, Zone A, Headquarters, Harvey Road, Yaba, Lagos
2. Perspective of Shipping Companies – Mr.Ascanio Russo, MD, PTML, Tin Can Island Port, Lagos.
3. Perspective of Terminal Operators – Princess Mrs. Vicky Haastrup, Chairperson, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria.
4. Perspective of Customs Licensed Agents – Barr. Chekwube Osonwa, Legal Adviser ANLCA.
Commentator: Mr. Hassan Bello – Former, ES/CEO, NSC.

DAY TWO PAPERS:
First Session:
Session Chairman: Hon. Justice M. L. Garba, JSC.
Paper No. 3:

Current Issues in Maritime Adjudication and Practice (The Challenges of Simple Contracts in the Adjudication of Maritime Claims in Nigeria, ‘Sui Generis’ in Admiralty and the Jurisdiction over Crew Wages in Nigeria, Cargo Clearance and the Limits of Admiralty Jurisdiction).

Resource Persons:
1. Dr. Wale Olawoyin, SAN – The Challenges of Simple Contracts in the Adjudication of Maritime Claims.
2. Ms. Chisa Uba – ‘Sui Generis’ in Admiralty and the Jurisdiction over Crew Wages in Nigeria.
3. Mr. Luke Zadkovich – International Law and Practice on Crew Wages.
4. Dr. Emeka Akabogu – Cargo Clearance and the Limits of Admiralty Jurisdiction.
Commentator: Hon. Justice Ibrahim Buba, Judge, Federal High Court.

Second Session:
Session Chairman: Hon. Justice Helen Ogunwumiju, JSC.
Paper No. 4:
Security of the Maritime Domain (Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea): Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act, 2019: Matters Arising.
Resource Persons:
1. D.G, NIMASA – Dr. Bashir Jamoh
2. Nigerian Navy – Director Legal, Nigerian Navy
3. Hon Justice A. O. Faji, Federal High Court
4. Mr. Alex Muteti, Office of the Director, Public Prosecution, Kenya.

 

DAY THREE PAPERS:
First Session:
Session Chairman: Hon. Justice Abdu Aboki, JSC.
Paper No. 5:
Case Management, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Arbitration and the Use of Technology in Maritime Matters
Resource Persons:
1. Mrs.Adeyinka Aroyewun, Director, Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse,
2. Mrs.Doyin Rhodes Vivour, SAN – Doyin Rhodes-Vivour& Co.
3. Mr.Rotimi Ogunyemi – Chair, NBA-SBL ICT Committee.
Second Session:
Session Chairman: Hon. Justice Emmanuel Agim, JSC.
Paper No.6:
Stress Management

Resource Person: Omon Anenih Mordi
At the end of the presentations, commentaries and discussions, the following resolutions were reached and adopted with a view to ensuring a rapid development of the maritime sector in Nigeria and Africa that will be sustainable and proactive and, also, enhance the capacity of the Courts in both Nigeria and other African countries in admiralty jurisdiction:

RESOLUTIONS:
1. That to properly regulate and have uniformity in the activities of terminal operators in Nigeria and across Africa, there is a need to adopt and domesticate the international convention on liability for terminal operators or develop local legislation which codify the operator’s obligations in their respective Standard of Operation (SOP). Further to the foregoing, individual countries should avoid derogating from the globally accepted legal principles of maritime law & practice to ensure uniformity and reciprocity and increase funding of the maritime sector to accommodate global best practices for improvement in the sector.

2. That there ought to be a multimodal approach to cargo operations as this would greatly help in reducing the turn-around time for ships and cargo. That the use of trains and barges will go a long way to facilitating the decongestion of the ports as trucking goods by road transport out of the ports has proven not to be sufficient.

3. That the Government needs to invest robustly in port infrastructure and port expansion as well as development of alternative ports outside of Lagos to reduce the congestion at the Lagos ports.

4. That there is the need to address the issue of accrual of demurrage on goods before importers even get access to them. It is suggested that an independent monitoring unit of the Nigerian Shipper’s Council be set up to ensure cargo is discharged to the final point where the importer can have legitimate access to his goods before free days period and subsequent demurrage shall commence. In this respect, it was emphasized that there is the need to improve on the turn-around time for ships and cargo to avoid substantial losses to importers by way of demurrage.

5. That as a corollary to the above, the Nigerian Customs Service along with other port inspection service should generally implement their SOP on joint examination by insisting that any agency that absents itself from joint examination should lose their right to examine the containers.

6. That arrest of vessels at specific berths pose a threat to the economic value of such berths and where the said arrested vessel is considered unsafe, it compromises the safety of the entire port. For safety of navigation and to avoid loss of revenue to the FG, our courts should investigate applications to move an arrested vessel from economic berth to anchorage. The arrestor should be required to provide necessary logistics and undertaking for security of the vessel at anchorage.

7. That the practice of detention of already cleared containers outside the gate of the seaports by agencies such as Standards Organization of Nigeria and Nigeria Customs Service for another round of clearance or further examination without justifiable grounds should be discouraged.

8. That port clearance services should be automated with the deployment of adequate and necessary technology in port operations and cargo clearance processes as this will significantly reduce the bottlenecks and delays affecting the ports and reduce the turn-around time for ships and cargo at the ports.

9. That there must be concerted efforts by all stakeholders in the maritime sector to develop the sector not only for the purposes of revenue generation but also for economic development.

10. That there should be more Nigerian owned companies engage in this sector as this will boost employment and local industry.

11. That capacity building for Judges is key to the successful adjudication of Admiralty matters. In this respect the Seminar emphasized the need to further deepen the collaborative efforts of the NJI, the NSC and the Judiciary through continuous training and engagements to enhance speedy dispensation of Justice in Admiralty matters or issues.

12. That there is need for collaborative efforts with the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Nigerian Content Monitoring and Development Board (NCMDB), for continuing judicial education to educate Judges on the recently passed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).

13. That stakeholders at the Bar, the Judiciary and the Legislature should work together to identify the loopholes in Admiralty Law and practice and work out ways to perfect it and make it conform to international best practices. Also, the National Judicial Council (NJC) should be empowered to determine the salary of Judicial Officers and to also review same every four years.

14. That specialized courts to adjudicate maritime matters should be created and Judges to handle such cases should be trained through such collaborative efforts by the NJI and NSC to equip them with the necessary knowledge and skills on such matters. This will enhance expeditious treatment of such cases thereby significantly reducing the time of adjudicating of such matters.

15. That there should be an amendment of Section 254 (c) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which erodes seafarers right to a maritime lien on crew wages by vesting jurisdiction in the National Industrial Court (NICN) by vesting this particular jurisdiction in the Federal High Court (FHC) which is generally vested with Admiralty jurisdiction or, at least allow a concurrence of jurisdiction between the National Industrial Court and the Federal High Court where Seafarers can sue in personam at the NICN or choose to sue in rem (lien) at the FHC. An interpretation of the law in line with best practices (preserving the right of lien) is necessary.

16. The introduction of the Admiralty Jurisdiction Act of 1991 set the geographical limits of admiralty jurisdiction from the point when the goods are loaded on the vessel to the point when they are delivered to the consignee or whoever is to receive them (section 1[2]) of the Act. Judicial decisions limiting the extent of admiralty jurisdiction to the point when the goods are discharged from the vessel are in clear violation of the provisions of the AJA.

 

17. That in respect of important admiralty matters of a technical nature, it is advised that expert maritime practitioners be invited by the Supreme Court as amicus curiae to lend their assistance and expertise to the court in aiding them arrive at sound judgments and deliver justice in such matters

 

18. That in determining whether the Federal High Court has jurisdiction over simple contracts, the acid test should be that – if the contractual dispute relates or arises from the items listed in section 251(1) of the constitution and section 7 of the Federal High Court Act, then it is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court.

It is recommended that in evaluating whether a case is a simple contract or not Judges consider the ratio decidendi in Stat oil v Inducon 2021 7 NWLR PT (1774), where the dissenting Judgement of Agim JSC gives an apt qualification of determining whether a simple contract falls within the jurisdiction of the Federal OR state High Court.

“where the subject of a contractual dispute has no relationship with any of the subject matter listed in S251 (1) of the 1999 constitution and S (7) of the Federal high Court Act within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court or does not arise from any transaction in such subject matters it remains simply a contractual dispute that is not within the jurisdiction not because it is a simple contract but because it is not related to or arising from any of the items in S251 (1) of the 1999 constitution and S (7) of the Federal high Court Act. If it is a contractual dispute relating or arising from the said items then it is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court.”

19. That Court processes should be automated in order to address clogging of dockets of Judges and reduce the backlog of cases, reduce the workload of the Judges and increase transparency, efficiency and productivity. In this respect, the Constitution should be amended to include a provision which terminates interlocutory appeals at the Court of Appeal in order to decongest the docket of the Supreme Court.

20. That the Constitution should be amended to reflect a repealed provision contained in the 1989 constitution which provided for a limited right of appeal which reduced congestion in the Appellate Courts.

21. That the Judiciary should accord the right priority to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) by screening cases to determine their suitability for ADR and, in this respect, Judges and Judiciary staff should be properly trained on ADR mechanisms and effective case management.

22. That Judges should be given opportunities to observe each other’s case management practice in Court as a learning tool which should not only be confined to new Judges. Opportunities should be given to exchange views on effective case management best suited to their Courts.

23. That technology should be deployed in the resolution of maritime disputes and, accordingly, Judges adjudicating Admiralty matters and arbitrators in the maritime sector should be encouraged and supported to acquire digital literacy.

24. That the recommendations raised, and resolutions reached at this Seminar should be forwarded to all relevant persons and/or agencies for needed action.

APPRECIATION:
The Seminar expressed profound appreciation to the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman Board of Governors of the National Judicial Institute Hon. Justice Olukayode Ariwoola for his presence, exemplary leadership role both at this Seminar and in the Judiciary in general and for declaring the Seminar open.
The Seminar also appreciated the Paper Presenters and Chairmen of Sessions for taking out time to share their wealth of knowledge.

The Seminar thanked the President of the Court of Appeal, Justices of the Court of Appeal, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Judges of the Federal High Court, Justices and Judges who attended from other African countries especially the Chief Justices of Gambia, Ghana, Kenya who were ably represented, and the Chief Justice Sierra Leone, the Hon. Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards, for taking out time to attend and for their contributions. The Seminar puts on record its acknowledgement of the pleasure of having them attendance.
The Seminar expressed gratitude to the host, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council, Rt. Hon. Emmanuel Jime, for hosting the Seminar and the huge success recorded at the end. The administrator of the National Judicial Institute (NJI), Hon. Justice Salisu Garba Abdullahi was also appreciated for his efforts in living up to the mandate of the Institute.

Finally, the Seminar expressed its profound appreciation to all participants for their attendance and contributions.

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