Shippers Council to partner FG on fast-tracking admiralty cases
Executive Secretary/CEO, Nigerian Shippers Council, Barrister Hassan Bello
BY FRANCIS EZEM
Strong indications emerged that the Nigerian Shippers Council would approach the Federal Government, especially seeking audience with the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen as part of measures to achieve the fast-tracking of admiralty cases in the country, given the peculiarity of the maritime industry.
This sequel to calls by participants Tuesday at the ongoing 15th edition of the Maritime Seminar for Judges orgnised by the council in Abuja for the fast-tracking of admiralty cases in the various courts in the country, citing terrorism, fraud and other financial crimes cases, which are currently given such fast-track treatment at the courts, given the delay associated with the nation’s judicial system.
Participants at the event are drawn from legal practitioners including those from the bar and bench as well as those from the academia, all of whom unanimously agreed that admiralty cases should be given speedy and fast-track treatment at the courts in the overall interest of the nation’s economy.
In attendance at the seminar are justices of the Court of Appeal, Federal and State High Court Judges in Nigeria, Judges from The Gambia, Ghana and Sierra Leone as well as senior lecturers from the Faculty of Law of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and the University of Lagos both in Nigeria.
The Executive Secretary/CEO of the council, Mr. Hassan Bello, who spoke at the three-day event in reaction to the views expressed by participants, hinted that the council will approach the relevant judicial authorities in the country on the issue fast-tracking of admiralty cases in courts.
According to Bello, who also presented a paper entitled: ‘Introduction to Maritime Law’ at the event, also admitted that admiralty cases needed to be treated with dispatch in view of the peculiar nature of the shipping industry, which is a global business by its very nature.
“Admiralty cases should be given equal treatment like cases of terrorism and corruption which are given urgent attention once they are taken to courts by either the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC or Department of State Security DSS”, the participants had argued.
The CJN, who graced the occasion, said the seminar has over the years been acknowledged as a veritable platform for highlighting matters that are critical to the maritime industry.
The objective of the seminar, he said, has been to keep judges abreast with the basic and contemporary skills and knowledge of the complex and dynamic subject of Admiralty Law and Practice as it affects the administration of justice.
Onnoghen said this was imperative as the adjudicatory duty of a judicial officer can only be performed optimally when he remains up to date with emerging trends in jurisprudence pertaining to this specialised area of the law.
Meanwhile, Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, while speaking at the event, said the importance of speedy and efficient handling of maritime cases by the courts cannot be overemphasised since in the shipping industry, time is money.
Amaechi who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Alhaji Saliu Zakare, said that in the past, handling of admiralty cases has was very slow and tedious owing to the fact that admiralty law was not taught in Nigerian universities as part of the curriculum, hence limited or no expert knowledge to guide judges in presiding over such cases.
“This, coupled with the speedy rate of development in international trade law, which exerted a lot of strain on Nigeria’s judicial officers most of who only came in contact with admiralty case in the court room for the first time, when such matters are brought before them for adjudication either at trial or appeal stage”, the Minister said.
The minister argued that it was part of efforts to address such challenges and to ensure expeditious dispensation of justice in admiralty cases that the council in conjunction with the National Judiciary Institute NJI, decided to hold the seminar for judges.
It was also gathered that in order to complement the efforts of the council in this direction, the Federal Ministry of Transport inaugurated a Ministerial Committee to engage relevant government agencies on the introduction of at least the basics of Admiralty Law practice into the curriculum of Nigerian universities, as the committee has ever since been working towards achieving this goal.
However, chairman of the first session, which dealt on Introduction of Maritime Law, Justice Aminu Sanusi, of the Supreme Court, also while speaking at the event, said the issue of fast-tracking of admiralty cases can only be addressed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
He therefore urged the CEO of the Council, Bello, who is also a lawyer to open discussions with the CJN with a view to achieving a fast-track treatment for admiralty cases, which would also enhance the competitiveness of the industry in Nigeria with its peers across the globe.