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Court adjourns terminal operators’ suit against Shippers’ Council over charges till May 23

By News Express on 05/02/2016

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A Federal Court of Appeal in Lagos on Thursday adjourned till May 23, a case between the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) and the Seaports Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) over port charges.

The court also adjourned hearing till May 23, another appeal filed by the Association of Shipping Lines Agencies (ASLA) against the NSC and the Shippers’ Association Lagos State (SALS) as co-defendants.

The Presiding Judge, Mrs Uzoamaka Anyanwu, said that the court adjourned the case as a result of delay by the appellant in submitting the necessary papers.

The judge said the appellant should have followed up the documentation at every stage.

“You (appellant) have not done your own part. So, therefore, the court fined you the sum of N30, 000 to pay the defendant for the delay.”

Speaking with newsmen shortly after the adjournment, Counsel to one of the appelants (ASLA), Chidi Ilogu (SAN) said the court had adjourned the case.

The Counsel to the NSC, Emeka Akabogu, expressed dissatisfaction with the attitude of the appellant.

“The court has ruled and we have no choice than to obey.”

A Counsel to the other appellant (STOAN) Ayo Olorunfemi, said he had filed an application for extension of time to complete documentation.

“The court is saying that I should have reminded the court that I had brought the remaining documents expected from me and I delivered to the Registrar.

“It was the duty of the Registrar to inform the judge that he had received the documents on Feb. 1.”

He said that the next adjourned day was long enough for the Registrar to brief the judge about the additional documents.

The Counsel to the Shippers Association of Lagos State (SALS), Mr Osuala Nwagbara, said he believed that the appellant was trying to slow down the process.

“It is not in the interest of the parties to slow down the case.

“I demanded for N2 million fine against the appellant to make them know that the court is not happy with the slowdown of the case.”

NAN reports that both ASLA and STOAN had instituted an appeal against the NSC over the council’s attempt to cut shipping agency charges and progressive storage charges collected by the terminal operators.

NAN reports that on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014, the NSC published newspapers’ advertisements announcing the reversal of storage charges at the ports to those in force as at May 1, 2009.

The NSC also ordered an increase in the free storage period at the port from three to seven days.

The council equally directed shipping companies to reduce their shipping line agency charges from N26, 500 to N23, 850 on 20ft. container and from N48,000 to N40,000 on 40 ft. container.

NSC also called for a refund of container deposits by importers and agents within 10 working days after the return of the empty containers.

Dissatisfied with the directive, the shipping companies and terminal operators headed for the Federal High Court and instituted an action against the NSC.

In a judgement delivered by Justice Ibrahim Buba on Dec. 17, 2014, the judge annulled illegal port charges and ordered shipping companies to refund billions of naira collected since 2006 from shippers (importers and exporters).

The judge affirmed in his judgement, the appointment of NSC as the economic regulator of the ports and dismissed the claims of shipping companies and the terminal operators.

Buba further held that the Shipping Line Agency Charges (SLAC) levied and collected from Nigerian shippers by the shipping companies since 2006 was illegal.

He ordered that the shipping companies should account and pay to Nigerian shippers all monies or fees charged and collected since 2006 as SLAC from shippers or users of shipping and port-related services from 2006 to date.

The court dismissed the claims of the shipping companies and the terminal operators and granted the counter claims of NSC.

The shipping companies and the terminal operators lost the case in a judgement delivered by Justice Ibrahim Buba on Dec. 17, 2015, prompting the appeal. (NAN)

•Photo shows sea vessel.

Source News Express

Posted 04/02/2016 9:11:32 PM


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