The Federal Court of Appeal, Lagos, has adjourned a case between the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) and the Seaports Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) over reduction in port charges to May 23, 2016.
The court also adjourned the case between the Association of Shipping Lines Agencies (ASLA) against the Nigerian Shippers Council and its co-defendant, Shippers Association of Lagos State (SALS) to May 23, 2016.
The Presiding Judge, Mrs. Uzoamaka Anyanwu adjourned the case as a result of incomplete records and also fined the appellant (ASLA) a fine of N30, 000 for the delay in filing their briefs before coming to court.
Addressing the press shortly after the adjournment, Counsel to ASLA and STOAN, Ayo Olorunfemi explained that the appellant didn’t file in the appeal in due time. “The court said the appellant should have reminded the registry to do its work but I believe the registry should not be reminded to do its job. The adjourned date is fine by me and I believe by that time the registry should have taken the file to the appropriate court to regularize the processes”
Counsel to the NSC, Emeka Akabogu, lamented that ASLA were not keen to ensure that the case is dispensed with. We (Nigerian Shippers Council as well as the Shippers) are very concerned and we have asked the court that this matter be dealt with expeditiously. He also complained that STOAN Counsel should be mindful of the concern of Nigerians and swiftly complete their records of appeal to ensure that by the next adjourned date the hearing would hold.
“The appellant in both matters have not complied with the requirements of the court in having their appeals fully ready to be heard and as a result the court was unable to proceed. One missing page in the records for appeal and they didn’t find out until today and in the other case the appellant has not done what the court instructed them to do almost a year ago, hence we are faced with further adjournments” Akabogu said.
Both ASLA and STOAN had sued the NSC over the Council’s attempt to slash shipping agency charges and progressive storage charges collected by terminal operators. These cases were also adjourned by the Federal Court of Appeal from June 2015 to February 4, 2016 as a result of the backlog of pending cases the court had to handle.
On Wednesday October 29, 2014; the NSC published an advertisement announcing the reversal of storage charges at the ports to that which was in force as at 1st May 2009. It also ordered an increase in the free storage period at the port from three days to seven days.
The Council equally directed shipping companies to reduce their shipping line agency charges from N26, 500 to N23, 850 per TEU and from N48, 000 to N40,000 per FEU and refund container deposits to importers and agents within 10 working days after the return of the empty containers.
Consequently, the shipping companies and terminal operators had instituted an action against the NSC at the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos but lost the case in a verdict delivered by Justice Ibrahim Buba on December 17, 2015; prompting the appeal.
By Kenneth Jukpor