In a landmark judgment, the Court of Appeal once again affirmed the Nigerian Shippers Council as Economic Regulator of ports in Nigeria. It also held the controversial ‘shipping line agency charge’ normally levied by shipping companies as illegal and void.
Fourteen shipping companies led by Alraine Nigeria Limited had appealed the December 2014 judgment of Hon. Justice Ibrahim Buba which had affirmed the NSC as economic regulator and declared the ‘SLAC’ illegal. The Court of Appeal held that SLAC is illegal, ultra-vires and therefore null and void. It consequentially ordered the Appellants to stop collecting SLAC and directed the Appellants to account to the Nigerian Shippers’ Council for the SLAC collected from 2006 till date at an interest rate of 21% per annum.
The Court of Appeal however also perpetually restrained the Respondents from implementing its Notice of 2014 on the basis that it cannot impose local shipping charges without negotiation with the Appellants by virtue of Section 3(f) of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council Act.
Speaking on the judgment, Counsel to Nigerian Shippers Council, Mr. Emeka Akabogu stated that the judgment has clearly empowered the NSC to fully undertake its mandate and positioning the country for competitive port operations. He called it a victory not just for shippers but for the future of the port economic value chain which is crucial to national development.
The Nigerian Shippers’ Council was appointed Economic Regulator of Nigerian Ports under an Executive Order by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014. The recently passed National Transport Commission bill designates the Council to assume the responsibilities of the National Transport Commission when eventually enacted.