Expert seeks recognition of Federal High Court on admiralty claims

Maritime expert, Dr. Emeka Akabogu, has urged Judges to appreciate the Admiralty Jurisdiction Act that confers jurisdiction on the Federal High Court to determine admiralty claims. He said such claims arise from the carriage of goods by sea and all other aspects maritime business.

The expert, Dr. Emeka Akabogu lamented that more often than not when claims arise and are filed at the Federal High Court, they are truncated due to wrong application or appreciation of Admiralty jurisdiction issues.

He said the claim issues were usually successful at the Federal High Court and then when the claim is appealed at the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court, the court will come up with the position that the Federal High Court did not have jurisdiction in the first place.

Akabogu said the appellate court had often suggested that the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court should end when the cargo is discharged from the vessels but unfortunately such  decision  does not  favor the consignees as many losses/damages occur after the cargo was discharged from the vessel and before being delivered to the consignee.

Speaking to journalists said: “I will like to advise and encourage all judges at the high court level and appellate level to better appreciate the significance of foundational maritime laws, particularly the Admiralty Jurisdiction Act which confers jurisdiction on the Federal High Court to determine such matters.

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“It will enable them make better decisions that will impact on free flow of goods, quick vessel turn around, trade facilitation and better business enablement at the ports as  lots of port congestion and associated constraints arises from people who have rights which have been breached, but cannot be fully ventilated at that point.”

He further lamented that people have their cargoes stuck at the ports due to breaches of their economic rights, but are constrained in dealing with it due to technical issues in the law and courts bordering on jurisdiction and often, the value of the cargo will dissipate over time and they will not even have any encouragement or any desire to go and clear it from the ports anymore, leading to congestion.

He stated that these are some of the type claims that Nigerians need to have adjudicated upon to enhance business at the ports.

Akabogu said if the court says the Federal High Court does not have jurisdiction because the cargo has been discharged, it meant that many people who lose their cargoes or suffer damages at the ports after their cargoes have been discharged from the vessel would have their rights extinguished.

He pointed out that the same thing has happened to those who have losses occurring in the course of carriage to deliver to the consignee or in their ware houses or similar other things. Continuous enlightenment is necessary to resolve this challenge.

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