By Ugo Aliogo
Determined to address the dearth of knowledge in maritime law in the Nigerian judicial system, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council and the National Universities Commission (NUC) have agreed to collaborate on the introduction of maritime law as a course of study in Nigerian universities.
Maritime law is not offered in any Nigerian university either at the undergraduate or postgraduate level.
The agreement was reached in Abuja yesterday during a courtesy visit to the Executive Secretary of NUC, Professor Julius Okojie, by the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council Malam Hassan Bello
According to Bello, the dearth of legal practitioners and judges who are knowledgeable in maritime law continues to hinder the adjudication of maritime cases in the country.
He said the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, had directed the council to collaborate with NUC in introducing the basics of maritime law in curricular of Faculties of Law in Nigerian universities.
Bello said other justices of the Supreme Court had also requested the council to do same.
His words: “This, according to their lordships, is because until recently, maritime law was not taught in our universities both at under graduate and post graduate levels.
As a result of this, our judges who are called to dispense justice on complex maritime issues, found it extremely tasking to dispose of such matters expeditiously.
As matter of fact, some Justices of the Supreme Court and those of the Court of Appeal have in the past admitted that they had no prior contact with admiralty law until after participating in the maritime seminar for judges series.
In several instances, their lordships find solace in the papers that were presented at the past seminars in determining complex maritime cases.’’
The Shippers ‘ Council Executive Secretary lamented that Nigerians who are interested in developing a career in admiralty practice have had to undertake such course abroad at a great cost.
He said the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, had also lent a voice to the need for the council to partner NUC in introducing maritime law to Nigerian universities.
“It is expected that the teaching of the subject as an undergraduate course will equip judges and lawyers with a better grasp of the subject matter.
It will help speed up complex maritime cases like impounding of vessels through arrest and detention,’’ he said.
Bello said that the importance of maritime sector to the development of national economy could not be overemphasised as it contributed a lot the Gross Domestic Product and created employment.
He said if properly harnessed, the sector was a veritable source of economic sustenance and diversification, adding most countries derived 90 per cent of their revenue from the sector.
Responding, NUC Executive Secretary, Professor Julius Okojie, said NUC and the council would set a committee to work out the modalities without as fast as possible.
He urged the council to do its survey and work towards capacity building in the area of manpower.
Professor Okojie immediately nominated some staff of the commission that would be members of the joint committee on introduction of course in Nigerian universities and urged to council to d same.
“It is not something that will be difficult; we will proceed quickly. It will be a course that could become a specialised area. We will introduce it and it will run concurrently with the postgraduate level,’’ he said.