As an aspiring big-time businessman, especially with a focus on exportation, I was quite happy to find out that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, in collaboration with the National Judicial Institute (NJI), will be holding the 15th edition of the International Maritime Seminar for Judges, in Abuja next week. I immediately began to wonder what issues will be tabled and discussed, even as I read on to see that the seminar is aimed at bringing the nation’s judges, lawyers, practitioners and other stakeholders together for the purpose of enriching their knowledge. But perhaps the best part of it all was to learn that it is also aimed at equipping them to deal with the challenges of interpreting and applying international maritime laws in settlement of shipping related disputes.
Because of my interest in the sector, I read every and anything related, so that I will be well-equipped to make a splash in the sector, sooner more than later. Therefore, I will make it a point to leave my comfort zone of Lagos, to grace the three-day seminar, which is expected to consider some salient topics, such as Introduction to Maritime Law, Applicability of International Treaties to Nigerian Laws, Rights of a Cargo Owner at the Insolvency of the Carrier: The Hanin Shipping Experience, The Draft Convention Recognition of Foreign Judicial Sale of Ships: The Nigerian Position, Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea: Interpretation and Economic Implication and An overview of the Proposed Liability Regime for Inland Carriage of Goods (Rails, Rail and Waterways). Wow! What an exhaustively concise array of topics. After going through them all, I’m pretty sure that the seminar will help in defining the scope of status of legal matters involving Nigerian Shippers.
For someone newly venturing into exportation, a reader might wonder why I’m already worrying about the legal aspects of the sector. My simple answer is that he who fails to plan, plans to fail. It is also in the best interest of any serious businessman to be very familiar with his area of interest. In last week’s Daily Trust on Saturday, I read the succinct interview with the Executive Secretary of the Shippers Council, Barrister Hassan Bello. In his usual top form, he cleared up many questions I had about some legal aspects of exportation, and basically calming a lot of fears I had harboured. Barrister Bello also said the seminar is specifically to fill in the gap in the knowledge of international trade and admiralty law by the judges, such as those of the Federal High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
I also learnt that admiralty – or maritime – law is not taught in Nigerian universities, not in the legal curriculum, except now at Master’s level, creating a sensitive knowledge gap. I was pleased to learn that the Shippers Council, as far back as 1995, realised the gap, and started training in Admiralty or Maritime Law, seeing a marked change since then.
I was also happy when Barr. Bello said the seminar is not a talk shop, but a gathering which produces results. I also learnt from him that government has also made policy decisions because of the seminar, including the Cabotage Law and the Cabotage Policy.
Of course it’s heartening that judgement coming from our judges now involving foreigners, is welcome, dynamic, and acknowledged internationally. I feel proud that Nigerian judges are well-respected and acknowledged internationally, and it also gives me a sense of security, especially as I’m going to plunge all I’ve got into my exportation business.
A great example of the successes recorded via the seminar in the past, is there was a time when the European Union complained to the Shippers Council, about wanton arrest of ships, and the impact it has on the economy. The topic was introduced in the last seminar, and now wanton arrest of ships is a thing of the past.
The seminar is to be chaired by former Head of State, Chief Ernest Shonekan GCFR, CBE, while the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon Chief Walter N. Onnoghen and RT. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi are Special Guest of Honour and Chief Host. Expected participants include Hon. Justices of the Supreme Court, Court of Apeal, Justices of the Federal and State High Courts, Attorneys – General, Maritime Law Practitioners, Shipping Companies, Legal Practitioners of Public and Private Companies, Freight Forwarders, Transport Operators and other stakeholders in the maritime and Shipping Industry. And don’t forget my humble self.
Ajuluchukwu wrote in from Bwari, FCT.