The Cargo Defence Fund (CDF) has called on the Export Group of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) to support the mandate of the Fund which is set up to protect the trade investments of members through the instrumentality of law and technical expertise.
The Secretary of the Fund, Mr. Okwudili Daniels made this call on Tuesday at the LCCI Headquarters in Lagos, as he noted that the Fund which was established by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council was put in place to assist importers and exporters in the pursuit of their legitimate claims.
Daniels recalled that prior to the establishment of the fund, the Council noticed a very high rate of abandonment of legitimate claims by indigent Nigerian shippers who could not afford the costs of pursuing their legitimate claims either in the court of law or through arbitration as may be prescribed in the carriage contracts.
“To provide a viable solution to this problem faced by the shippers at that time, the Council established two similar service schemes or products, initially known as the Cargo Protection and Indemnity Fund and the Cargo Litigation Fund. These two were situated under the Legal Unit of the Council at the time. The schemes were later merged and formalized into the present Cargo Defence Fund with a special unit created to form its secretariat.
“The Fund is a mutual scheme for the importers and exporters in the sense that shippers contribute to the fund by of registration. The registration fee is paid into the Fund and when a registered member runs into a problem, the mutually contributed Fund is used to assist the member in solving the problem”, he said.
He disclosed that the CDF is managed by Board of Trustees headed by a Chairman adding that the membership of the Board was drawn from the six geo-political zones of the country with each zone having one representative.
“Other members of the fund are representatives of: Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Nigerian Maritime Law Association (NMLA) and the Nigeria Insurers’ Association (NIA). The Secretariat of the Fund is the Cargo Defence Unit of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council”, he added.
Meanwhile Okwudili also noted that the Cargo Defence Fund needed aggressive marketing to spread the awareness to relevant stakeholders, including exporters and freight forwarders.
Speaking on the role of the legal committee of the Fund, Mr. Daniels informed that this committee which is headed by a lawyer among the Board members was to look into the entire complaints based on their merits with a view to establishing whether the Fund can assist the claimant by taking over the claim and pursuing same in court on behalf of his claimant.
According to him,” When the committee is of the opinion that the case cannot succeed in court, a recommendation of ex-gratia payment of 10% of the total loss is made to the Board for approval. If approved, the claimant is paid off the the matter closed.
“Where the legal committee is of the opinion that the complaint will succeed through litigation, the matter is taken over and the Fund finance it to conclusion leaving the complainant to continue with his business. At the end of the case, the Fund takes 10% of the proceed of the judgement so as to keep the Fund”
According to Okwudili, the Joint Committee of Cargo Defence Fund and the Nigerian Insurance Association, interacts regularly and has developed procedures to claim successfully from insurance companies, settled many outstanding insurance claims on shipments, develop an insurance cover with London Underwriters / Nigerian Marine Underwriters/NEXIM Bank so as to enable Nigerian exporters sell on Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) basis or other similar shipment forms.