The main objective of the International Maritime Seminar for Judges is to equip the judges and justices of Superior Courts of records as well as relevant stakeholders in the
Maritime Industry with the basic contemporary knowledge of the complex and dynamic subject of Admiralty Law and Practice as it affects the administration of Justice in Nigeria.

The importance of quick and efficient handling of maritime matters by our courts can never be overemphasized as we all know that in maritime commerce time is money.


The strategic partnership between the Nigerian Shippers’ Council and the National Judicial Institute stemmed from the recognition of the need to specially equip our judicial officers with the requisite knowledge to help facilitate expeditious dispensation of justice in maritime causes in our courts.

Since inception in 1995, over five hundred Judges and Justices of Superior Courts of record, both Federal and State have participated and benefitted from the seminar. The impact of this on our judicial system is that judgments in maritime issues delivered by our courts are recognized and respected internationally. The time taken to dispose of maritime cases by our courts has also been greatly reduced thereby resulting in cost savings to litigants.
page-9aThe role of International Maritime Seminar for Judges in influencing far reaching policy directions of government in the maritime and transport sectors cannot be a push aside. The domestication of the Hamburg Rules, the coordination of freight forwarding through the Nigerian Shippers’ Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria, the introduction of Cabotage into the Nigerian Maritime Commerce, etc. were all influenced by the International Maritime Seminar for Judges.

The robust synergy between the Nigerian Shippers’ Council and National Judicial Institute since the first seminar has greatly advanced learning in maritime law among stakeholders and updated our judges on trends in this very important sector of the economy.
page-9bThe high quality of the presentations by eminent jurists who participated as resource persons and participants, as well as the high calibre of the people who attended the seminar from Nigeria and other parts of the world have also lifted up the status of the seminar and given it an enviable international image.

Over the years this seminar has drawn participants from many countries across the world which is an eloquent testimony of its acceptance by jurists internationally and in Africa whose maritime laws are yet to develop the way it has been in the advanced world.
Chief  Ernest Shonekan in his speech said, by organizing the series of capacity building seminars, the judges, stakeholders and the economy have benefitted immensely from it. He said, “I am told and I have every cause to believe that the experience garnered has help the judges to reduce the length of time it takes to resolve admiralty claims, especially those involving arrest and detention of ships, thus saving money for the importers, exporters and the owners of ships.

He therefore commend the Nigerian Shippers’ Council and National Judicial Institute for collaborating to organize this seminar which is an invaluable capacity building programme for those in the legal profession, particularly those in the bench and the bar who by the demand of their profession must continue to update themselves on many areas of human endeavour particularly as they relate to the legal profession.
page-8bThe former president urged the NSC and the NJI to redouble their efforts to ensure the continuity of this seminar. He said one problem Nigeria has in this part of the world is how to sustain a good idea.

Chief shonekan said, there is no doubting the fact that new terminologies and new interpretations of the Admiralty Law have entered the maritime sector, especially in the advance countries and except we keep abreast of trends in the sector, we are likely to lose out in international trade.
page-13bWith the benefit of hindsight and looking at the future, I like to say that over time there may be need to change this biennial seminar to annual. This is because two years is too far in the minds of many operators in the industry. But, if it is a yearly event, stakeholders will keep it in their minds and eagerly look forward to participating in the seminar.

President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, who was represented by the Solicitor-General of the Federation, Mr Taiwo Abidogun on the opening day of the seminar, directed the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) as the economic regulator of ports to produce a viable blueprint for maximum exploitation of the economic potentials of the maritime industry.
page-14eBuhari gave the directive in a message to the 14th Maritime Seminar for Judges in Abuja.

According to the President, having an economic regulator at this critical time of economic downturn is imperative to encourage transparency in economic activities, enhance.

He called on both the judiciary and the legislature to lend support to the reform of the maritime sector of the nation’s economy.
page-14f“For us to achieve maximum productivity and efficiency in the maritime industry, we must get rid of fraudulent and corrupt practices in the industry.

“Corruption increases cost of doing business, destroys ease of doing business, distorts processes and procedures, robs government of legitimate revenue and gives the country a bad image,” Buhari said.
page-10cHe said, “We cannot afford to perpetrate the cases of mismanagement and squander of national resources which we have witnessed in some of our institutions in the maritime sector.”

Buhari said that the time for a paradigm shift “is now and in line with our agenda for a corruption-free society”.

The President said that his administration would encourage and enforce discipline and sanity in the maritime sector.
page-11bHe also talked about piracy and other forms of armed attacks in the Gulf of Guinea as well as attacks on security personnel manning the waterways. He mentioned corruption between supervising officials and criminals on the nation’s waterways and had given the appropriate directives to the necessary authorities that the nation’s waterways remain safe and conducive for international and domestic trade and commerce.

“For us to have a robust and efficient judicial system to support our economic development, judges should be abreast of all contemporary development in the maritime industry,” he said.
page-10aThe Chief Justice of the Federation, Hon. Justice Mahmud Mohammed GCON, said with a predicted increase in the future volume of global trade, “there is no doubt that the future presents infinite possibilities and also attendant risks and challenges to operators and the judiciary”.

He said that, “As dispensers of justice, the judiciary must be informed of the trends in the maritime sector in order to properly act as an arbiter of disputes and determinant of rights as are germane to the sector and its stakeholders.”
page-10bHe, however, said that it was essential for both the judiciary and the maritime sector to partner to create a suitable condition that would facilitate trade and investment.

The Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, said that the importance of quick and efficient handling of maritime matters by courts could never be over-emphasized.

Amaechi said that “`It is commendable that the seminar has created a veritable forum where prominent jurists and legal luminaries come together to rub minds on how to enhance the competitiveness and economic viability of our maritime industry through the capacity building of the judicial officers.”

“I am therefore glad to note that gathering among us of eminent jurists, judges and justices of superior courts of records in Nigeria and other countries in the West African sub-region (Gambia, Sierra Leone and Ghana).

Mr. Hassan Bello, Hon. Justice Mahmoud Mohammed, GCON, FNJI; Chief Ernest Shonekan, GCFR; Mr. Taiwo Abisogun;Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and Hon. Justice Ibrahim N. Auta, OFR, during the launching
Mr. Hassan Bello, Hon. Justice Mahmoud Mohammed, GCON, FNJI; Chief Ernest Shonekan, GCFR; Mr. Taiwo Abisogun;Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and Hon. Justice Ibrahim N. Auta, OFR, during the launching

He noted the role of the seminar in influencing far-reaching policy directions of government in the maritime and transport sectors.

The minster suggested that maritime law should be introduced and made a compulsory course of study in institutions of higher learning, adding that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council should ensure the realization of this objective.

The Executive Secretary of the NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello, said the council would ensure that Admiralty law is made a compulsory subject in institutions of higher learning.
page-14cShippers Council’s Executive Secretary, Hassan Bello, thanked the chief justice of the federation for his interest in developing admiralty law, adding that “in the National Judicial Institute, found a worthy collaborator”.

He said that the Administrator of the NJI, Hon. Justice R. P. Bozimo, was worthy of acknowledgement and laudable for her administrative ingenuity.

Paper presentations were also made by several legal notables.

Mrs. Jean Chiazor Anishere, Principal Counsel, Jean Chiazor & Co., in her paper presentation – Topic: ‘Introduction to Maritime Law and Admiralty Jurisdiction in Nigeria’, said “Maritime Law has been variously described and defined in ways that reflect subjective perception as well as semantics. One view is that “maritime law provides the legal framework for maritime transport”. Another is that maritime law comprises a “body of legal rules and concepts concerning the business of carrying goods and passengers by water. Both are narrow in scope but the first is more general and could be construed as embracing matters on maritime, which extend beyond the purely private domain of maritime business and commerce, into areas of public concern.
page-14bMr. Olumide Sofowora, SAN, in his presentation – Topic: ‘Electronic Evidence in Admiralty Practice’. Mr. Sofowora wrote that, as far back as 2002, the Supreme Court of Nigeria in its judgment in the case of Mr. P. A. Awolaja & ORS.  v. Seatrade Groningen B.V. (2002) 4 NWLR (Part 758) 520 recognized that the exchange of affreightment by telex, facsimile, the internet and modern forms of information technology were the order of the day. This was what his Lordship, Hon. Justice Belgore, Justice of the Supreme Court stated at page 535 of the judgment.

Mr. Sofowora SAN said, in any proceedings a statement contained in a document produced by a computer shall be admissible as evidence of any fact stated in it of which direct oral evidence would be admissible. He however draws the attention of the attendees to the recent promulgation of the 2011 Evident Act, Section 84 thereof makes specific provisions for the admissibility of statements in documents produced by computers.

Chibuzor Ekwenkwuo    Chief E. O. Nwagbara
Chibuzor Ekwenkwuo, Partner – A & E Law Partners     Chief E. O. Nwagbara, Partner – Maritime & Commercial Law Partners

He said by virtue of the provisions of Section 84, the following conditions must be proved before electronic documents can be admissible in evidence viz:   (a) – that the document containing the statement was produced by the computer during a period over which the computer was used regularly to store or process information for the purposes of any activities regularly carried on over that period, whether for profit or not or by any individual. (b) – that throughout the material part of that period the computer was operating properly or, if not, that in any respect in which it was not operating properly or was out of operation during that part of that period was not such as to affect the production of the document or the accuracy of these contents. (c) – that the information contained in the statement reproduces or is derived from information supplied to the computer in the ordinary course of those activities.

Hon. Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun of the Supreme Court
Hon. Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun of the Supreme Court                                                                               .

While extolling the organizers for a great seminar, the Senior Advocate said there is need for the National Assembly to promulgate as Act similar to the Indian Information Technology Act of 2000 so that issues that may arise on account of the interpretation of other electronic devices and/or electronic terms like “computer system” as distinct from “computer”, “access”, “electronic form”, “electronic record”, “digital signature”, “computer network”, “computer resource”, “electronic gazette: etc. which are not presently covered by the Nigerian Evidence Act may be appropriately dealt with when they do arise. Mr. Sofowora said it was because the Indian Parliament considered it necessary to give effect to the said resolution and to promote efficient delivery of government services by means of reliable electronic records that it enacted the Information Technology Act, 2000. It is about time Nigeria does the same, he concluded.

The Legal Manager of Eco Bank Mr. Patrick Opara picked his argument from the banking perspective. He said in contemporary times, banks’ operations are largely dependent on a range of banking and information technology generally and use of computers and related or associated equipment. It is manifest that the rule on electronic evidence would aid timely determination of a matter before an admiralty court in which a bank is involved. It is to be noted that there seem to be paucity of cases where issue was joined on the admissibility of electronic evidence sought to be tendered or actually tendered by a bank in an admiralty matter thus far.
Mrs. Mfon Ekong Usoro, SAN in her contributions concluded by saying, “it requires familiarity of key players including the judiciary with ICT and a clear understanding of the application of the Evidence Act to electronic documents. She said the procedures in some common law countries mentioned by Sofowora, SAN is worth considering as we seek to further reform the laws governing electronic evidence in Nigeria.

Other presenters of important information are Chief Osuala Emmanuel Nwagbara and Mr. Chibuzo c. Ekwekwuo. After Mr. Ekwekwuo’s presentation, he congratulated the NJI and the NSC. He concluded that if there is one description that encapsulates the role of the Nigerian Shippers Council as intended originally and as currently captured in public records. It is the description, appellation and functions of the Port Sector Economic Regulator, even though it may not always have had all the powers required to exercise those functions.

Many of the attendees laud this year’s seminar, and called for the extension of the days of lecture.



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