Court upholds Shippers’ Council’s regulatory powers over ports


 …Orders shipping firms to refund over N1trn


A Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday affirmed the ap­pointment of the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) as the economic regulator of all seaports in Nigeria.

Trial Judge, Justice Ibra­him Buba, arrived at the decision while delivering judgment in two suits filed by some shipping compa­nies and terminal operators in Nigeria to contest the power of the NSC to regulate port activities and impose certain charges.

The suits included those filed against the NSC by Al­raine Shipping Agencies Ni­geria Limited and others, and Apapa Bulk Terminal Lim­ited and others.

Justice Buba, in a land­mark judgment, dismissed the claims of shipping com­panies and the terminal op­erators, and ordered them to refund over N1 trillion, which they had hitherto collected.

The judge held that the Shipping Line Agency Charges (SLAC) levied and collected from Nigerian ship­pers by the shipping compa­nies since 2006 was illegal and that the shipping compa­nies should account and pay to NSC all monies or fees charged and collected since 2006 as SLAC from shippers or users of shipping/port-related services from 2006 to date, which runs into trillions of naira.

Pursuant to the appoint­ment of NSC as the regulator of Nigerian ports by President Goodluck Jonathan, in line with his executive powers in February 2014, the NSC is­sued notices to both the ship­ping companies and terminal operators to reverse all illegal charges levied on Nigerian shippers.

Dissatisfied, the shipping companies and the terminal operators, mostly foreign-owned, filed the suits to in­validate the actions of NSC.

The NSC, represented by Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), had objected the suits as well as counter claim.

In the counter claim, the NSC sought a declaration that by virtue of the provi­sions of Clause 2(a) and (b) of the Memorandum of Un­derstanding (MoU) between providers and users of ship­ping/port and related ser­vices dated March 28, 2001, the plaintiffs do not have the powers or rights to unilater­ally introduce and impose SLAC.

The NSC also sought a declaration that the unilateral introduction and imposition of SLAC by the plaintiffs and collection of same from ship­pers or users of shipping/port-related services from 2006 to date was illegal, ultra vires, and therefore null and void.

Besides, the NSC had urged the court to issue an order directing the plaintiffs to immediately stop collec­tion of SLAC from users of shipping/port and related services, and another order directing the plaintiffs to ac­count for and pay to the de­fendant (NSC), with interests at the rate of 21 per cent per annum, all monies or fees collected by the plaintiffs as SLAC from shippers or users of shipping/port-related ser­vice from 2006 to date.

In his judgment, Justice Buba dismissed the claims of the shipping companies and terminal operators and upheld the counter claim of NSC.

Source : SunOnline

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