Lawyer advises on cargo claims, limits of Admiralty jurisdiction – Nigerian Observer

A maritime lawyer, Dr. Emeka Akabogu, advised judges to better appreciate the Admiralty Jurisdiction Act which conferred jurisdiction on the Federal High Court to adjudicate admiralty claims.

Akabogu, Senior Partner, Akabogu and Associates said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.

NAN reports that Admiralty receivables are receivables that arise from the carriage of goods by sea and all other maritime related aspects.

“I would like to advise and encourage all judges at the High Courts and Courts of Appeal level to better appreciate the importance of fundamental maritime laws, in particular the Admiralty Jurisdiction Act.

The Act confers jurisdiction on the Federal High Court to adjudicate on these matters.

He said such an appreciation would enable them to make better decisions that would impact the free movement of goods, fast turnaround of ships, trade facilitation and better business activation in ports.

“A lot of port congestion and associated hardship comes from people who have rights that have been violated but cannot be fully ventilated at this point.

“Some people have their shipments held up in ports due to violations of their economic rights, but are forced to process them due to technical issues in the law and courts bordering the jurisdiction.

“Often the value of the cargo will dissipate over time and they won’t even have any incentive or inclination to go and clear it from the ports, leading to congestion.”

According to Akabogu, the Federal High Court is supposed to have jurisdiction over admiralty claims.

He said, however, that often when claims arise and are filed in the Federal High Court, they are truncated due to misapplication or misapprehension of matters of admiralty jurisdiction.

He said that sometimes it was not the Federal High Court that did it, adding that sometimes one could successfully file a complaint with the Federal High Court, but it would go to appeal.

“And when appealed to the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court, the court will decide that the Federal High Court did not have jurisdiction in the first place.

Akabogu said that in doing this the courts have suggested that the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court should end when the cargo has been discharged from the vessel.

Akabogu explained that this decision still did not favor the consignees as a lot of loss/damage occurred after the cargo was unloaded from the vessel and before it was delivered to the consignee.

He said these were some of the types of demands that Nigerians needed to address, to improve business in the ports.

“Now when you say the Federal High Court has no jurisdiction because the cargo has been unloaded, that means that many people whose cargo is lost or damaged in ports after it has been unloaded from the ship will have their rights extinguished.

He said the same thing happened to those who suffered losses during transport to deliver to the consignee or in their warehouses or the like.

Akabogu explained that continued enlightenment was necessary to solve such a challenge. (NOPE)

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