Law firm advocates quick adjudication of maritime litigation

Lagos – A Managing Partner, Olisa Agbakoba Legal (OAL), Mrs Priscilla Ogwemoh, has called for quick settlement of maritime litigation to save huge costs incurred when ships are detained.

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Ogwemoh made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) as maritime activities closed on Friday.

She noted that the judiciary had as a result of long time spent on litigations, established fast track courts.

The maritime lawyer said that “Delivery of justice needs to be overhauled’’.

Ogwemoh said that in recent times, “court order of arrest of ships had reduced substantially, because of the huge liabilities when vessels are detained wrongly’’.

“We really need to continue advocating for quick adjudication of maritime cases,’’ she told NAN.

Ogwemoh urged the Federal Government to revive the Maritime Coordination Board to access the untapped potential of the maritime sector estimated at N7 trillion per annum.

She said that the Board should be revived in order to tap the massive potential of the maritime industry.

“It is noteworthy that there is massive untapped revenue in our maritime sector estimated at N7 trillion per annum.

“In order to tap the huge revenue from the sector, there will be need for an overhaul of policy institutional regulations and legal system.

“Several but crucial maritime agencies supervise the maritime sector leading to multiplicity of policy, operational guidelines and taxation.

“This leads to poor coordination of maritime affairs, which in itself will constitute constraint for any supervising minister,’’ the maritime lawyer said.

“In our (OAL) opinion, this situation would be reversed through reviving the Maritime Coordination Board as the highest organ for strategy formulation, policy harmonisation and implementation,’’ NAN quotes Ogwemoh her as saying.

She said that the firm (OAL) had submitted a National Strategic Action Plan for Nigeria’s Maritime Sector to President Muhammadu Buhari, adding that if implemented effectively, the action plan would lead to huge revenue for the government.

Ogwemoh said that the action plan was important “now that the government is trying to diversify its revenue’’.

“ We lost huge revenue due to so many charges in Nigerian ports.

“We hope that by the time there is a Coordination Board for the shipping industry, the loopholes would be covered,’’ she added.

In the week under review, the Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, urged West Central Africa countries to address the challenges of high transport costs and poor connectivity facing economies in the sub-region.

Sirika made the plea at a two-day Sub-Regional Workshop on “Transport Costs and Connectivity of West and Central Africa Countries’’ and a Sensitisation Seminar on “International Maritime Organisation (IMO’s) Container Weighing and Payment Terms’’, organised by the Union of African Shippers’ Council (UASC).

The minister urged the UASC to adopt a holistic transport policy to address the challenges and other issues that hindered the competiveness of the sub-region in international trade.

Sirika suggested an integrated and sustainable transport system with emphasis on rail and inland waterways transportation to foster quality connectivity within the system.

He said that an enabling environment for Public Private Partnership (PPP) should be created by designing new policies, legislation and institutional framework that would support the maritime sector.

Sirika said that Nigeria was interested in the workshop because of the national development through economic growth which topped the agenda of the present administration as enshrined in the Change Agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari.[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”70560″]

He said that maritime transport was an indispensable tool for international trade due to its mode of operation and character.

Also during the week, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr Hassan Bello, said that more than 50 per cent of trade from Asia to West bypassed the sub-region in spite of going through Africa’s coastline.

Bello said that almost in all the regions, import and exports were transported by foreign ships to and from sub-regional countries.

“Most countries in the sub-region including Nigeria, do not own fleets and we are at the mercy of foreign shipping companies.

“To improve connectivity and lower the cost of transport, therefore, we need to look very seriously at the area of ship building and vessels ownership.

“This is in order to increase the number of vessels plying our waters, with a view of encouraging international trade,’’ NAN quotes Bello as saying.

He explained that the sub-region had been paying dearly for poor connectivity.

Bello said that integration of the West and Central African sub- region would reduce cost of transportation and diversify its economy.

He said that the cost of transportation within the Africa region was high because of poor connectivity, adding that African countries must improve their transport systems.

The executive secretary said that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council was one of the pillars of the union n (UASC), adding that the NSC had been the Chairman of the Union’s Standing Committee.

Bello said that the role of the NSC in UASC was pivotal because Nigeria, being the largest economy in the West and Central Africa, generated about 60 per cent of the trade of the sub-region.

He, however, said that poor transport connectivity had been identified as a major obstacle to the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) countries in realising their potential in both regional and global trade.

Also in the week, Mr Michael Luguje, the Secretary-General, Port Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA), said that reducing Customs duties and an effective Single Window platform would reduce port costs to barest minimum.

Luguje also spoke at the two-day Sub-Regional Workshop on Transport Costs and Connectivity of African Countries; and Sensitisation Seminar on Container Weighing and Payment Terms.

He said that there was need to have a port community system which would serve as a framework for stakeholders to dialogue to improve quality of service and reduce costs of doing business.

Luguje said that regulation of port costs was a collective responsibility of both government and private sector.

The secretary-general expressed concern that the total port costs on a particular cargo including Customs duties and taxes accounted for over 70 per cent of the value of cargo.

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