The Appeal Court in Lagos has again adjourned the appeal filed by the Sea Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), and the Association of Shipping Lines Agencies (ASLA) against the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) to the 4th of February 2016 for further hearing.
The appeal filed by STOAN and ASLA to restrict the Nigerian Shippers’ Council from executing the judgment of the Federal High Court which was in favor of the Council, instructing STOAN and ASLA to revert to port charges of 1999 has been adjourned because the appellants failed to file the appellant brief within the time the court ordered.
The lead presiding judge, Justice Uzoamaka Anyanwu, pointedly refused to give an earlier date before the 4th of February as the court is approaching vacation.
While speaking with journalists shortly after the adjournment, Counsel to Shippers Association of Lagos State (SALS), Bar. Emmanuel Nwagbara explained that “when the matter was called up, it happened that the previous day, the appellant cases, the shipping cases and terminal operators’ cases, the counsel to those cases for the appellant filed processes only the previous day, he filed briefs of arguments and filed applications to regularize the briefs.
“Earlier, we had filed an application to dismiss the suit for want of diligent prosecution, apparently, this pushed them forward to quickly file their briefs of arguments yesterday as well as application to regularize, so the court was not in the position to take the matters, apparently because the court had earlier in the day taken appeals that were right for hearing today and vacation is approaching, and as a result of this, the court had to adjourned the two matters to the 4th of February, 2016 for hearing.
“It is expected that the respondent would file their own briefs of argument before that day, but the court indicated that, if we as respondent file our brief of argument and feel that the day given is too long a time, we also have a right to bring an application asking that the date for hearing be moved forward, which we will do” he said.
On his own part, counsel to STOAN, Mr. Femi Atoyebi argued that “the court was not ready to take matters, they have a crowded list, and they are giving dates for trials, so we have a definite date for trial, for the 4th of February and when the court says they can’t give you an earlier date, the only condition for which they would is if you filed an application to request and establish some grounds on which you want to have an earlier date, and you heard it said in one or two cases before ours that the court was not minded to give an earlier date than February, so in the circumstances we don’t have a choice but to accept that date.”
Meanwhile, Counsel to Nigerian Shippers’ Council Emeka Akabogu expressed dissatisfaction with the adjournment and stated that “the appellant failed to file appellant brief within the time that the court ordered on the last adjourned date, so they filed and sent to us this morning but at the same time the court was not minded to taking the application for the extention, so the court has directed that we do all in chambers and has adjourned till 4th of February for definite hearing of the matter.
He further stated that “we are not satisfied with that date, we will meet with our clients, there are steps which we will take because we believe that this matter deserves the utmost urgency as it is an urgent national matter. We know that the courts will be able to deal with this situation as it presents itself but what is most important is that we respond to the briefs which were served on us today, once we respond and file it and serve them then we will be able to decide on the next step to take.
He added that “ It seems like the application was deliberately served today because the last adjourned date was on the 17th May, they were already out of time even at that time and the court requires them to have served us as soon as possible and we have had a whole month since that time and they are just serving us this morning, so it looks deliberate but we cannot say for sure but be that as it may, what is important is that Nigeria importers are supported towards ensuring that they get the best deal within the Nigerian ports” he emphasized.