A Lagos Division of the Appeal Court on Tuesday directed terminal operators to refund over N7 trillion to the Nigerian Shippers Council, a government agency that protects the interest of shippers on matters affecting the shipment of imports and exports.
The court held that the submission of the terminal operators lacked merit and described it as “a mere academic work.”
The appellate court upheld the verdict of a federal high court in Lagos in 2015 which directed terminal operators to refund the said illegal amount to the federal government.
The terminal operators, under the aegis of Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), had dragged the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) and Shippers Association Lagos State (SALS) to a federal court over their role to stop the “arbitrary” terminal demurrage charged shippers as a result of delays.
A high court had in 2015 ruled in favor of the Nigerian Shippers Council over the arbitrary and storage charges even as it directed the terminal operators to return to status quo as regards the charges.
Dissatisfied with the lower court’s verdict, the terminal operators approached the Court of Appeal to challenge the judgment.
The appellate court also upheld the counter-claim of the Shippers Association of Lagos State, the second respondent, which stated that they had the locus standi to join forces with the Shippers’ council in the case.
Chidi Uwa, who read the lead judgment, maintained that the appellant failed to establish its case in legal rights which according to her was a mere hypothetical reason.
“I hereby dismiss the appeal and uphold the decision of the lower court,” the judge added.
The court asked all parties to bear their legal costs in the appeal.
Osuala Nwagbara, counsel to SALS, told PREMIUM TIMES after the court’s proceedings that the terminal operators had formulated over a dozen grounds for their appeal.
“In fact, I think they had up to 17-18 grounds of the appeal and normally issues are a summary of the content of the grounds which should be reduced to a manageable level."
“One may file 18 grounds of appeal and the issues formulated may be reduced to 5-6 grounds. I can’t recall exactly how many issues that formulated those grounds. And on our own side we compressed the entire issues for determination by the court into two."
“Our two issues were one whether the lower court was right in joining SALS to the originating summons."
"Secondly whether the court (was right) in upholding our claim and these we believe answered all the issues that are before this court as far as SALS is concerned. Shippers Council also had issues which they have formulated which touched on their status as the economic regulator.”