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Shippers Council loses Appeal to control NPA in landmark judgment

After years of legal tussle on the soul of the powers to regulate the ports, the Court of Appeal seating in Lagos has delivered judgment, affirming the powers of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) to control the ports and not the Nigeria Shippers Council (NSC).

By the pronouncement, the matter is now rested pending a possible approach to the Supreme Court by any aggrieved party.

In a unanimous judgment, delivered by Justice Abimbola Osarugue Obaseke-Adejumo, the appellate court held that the Notice issued by the NSC in 2013 to Shipping companies compelling them to revert to a tariff regime is null and void and of no effect.

The Court concurred that the notice failed to comply with the provisions of Section 3(f) of the Shippers’ Council Act and Paragraph 2(1) NSC (Local Shipping Charges on Imports and Exports) Regulations 1997.

The appellants, Alraine Shipping Agencies (Nigeria) Limited/Cross Marine Services, CMA CGM Delmas and 11 others had filed an action against the NSC and the registered trustee of the Shippers Association of Lagos State over the tariff regime.

The lower court had dismissed the appellants originating summons and granted the counter claim of the respondents and this raised tension, thus forcing the appellants to approach the Lagos Division of the Appeal for a challenge of the lower court ruling.

The Court of Appeal held that the order made by the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Regulation made by the Minister of Transport in 2015, appointing NSC as the Economic Regulator were inconsistent with the provisions of the NPA Act and NSC Act.

According to the court, NSC can only be appointed as Economic Regulator when NSC and NPA Acts are amended.

Again, the Court of Appeal further held that the President has no power pursuant to Sections 5 and 148 of the Constitution to issue a subsidiary Regulation or Order that is contrary to a law validly made by the National Assembly as the Executive Powers of the President under Section 5 of the Constitution is to administratively implement laws made by the National Assembly.

Efforts to get the reactions of officials of NPA, NSC and some of the shipping companies failed at press time.

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