The authorities could do more by domesticating international treaties

Organised by the Nigerian Shippers Council and the National Judicial Council with the theme “Institutional Excellence in Admiralty Law”, an international maritime seminar was held in Abuja last week to raise the consciousness of admiralty law among members of the bar and bench as well as other stakeholders in the sector. Some of the issues discussed were the rights of a cargo owner at the insolvency of the carrier, liability regime for carriage of goods by rail, road and inland waterways, piracy and armed robbery at sea as well as the application of international treaties to Nigerian laws and the draft convention on recognition of foreign judicial sale of ships.

We must commend the conveners of the seminar, the Nigerian Shippers Council and National Judicial Council for bringing experts and practitioners together to share knowledge and experiences in managing maritime industry issues. The seminar also offered participants the opportunity to appreciate the commercial and international nature of the admiralty law to Nigeria’s economic development, thereby strengthening the link between the maritime industry, the judiciary and other important stakeholders.

Over the years, there has been an appreciable level of awareness among judges on the importance of speedy resolution of admiralty disputes in the country. It was therefore no surprise that the discussions and resolutions at the sessions provided a treasure trove of information for relevant stakeholders in the maritime industry. But until the international treaties are domesticated, there are challenges that impinge not only on the sector but also on the national economy.

To the extent that maritime is a global trade, any treaty signed by Nigeria has to be transformed into our local jurisprudence to enable it have the force of law. According to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen in his address at the session, ”the domestication of some of the principles of International Admiralty laws into Nigerian legal framework as contained in the United Nations Convention on Carriage of Goods by Sea [Ratification and Enforcement] Act and others are significant milestones towards ground breaking legal practice in this sector in Nigeria.”

This is what the annual seminar was established to achieve and it has contributed tremendously to the growth of admiralty law system in the country. But time has come for Nigeria to begin to navigate with the world so as not to be left behind. Maritime is fast becoming part of the digital economy and given its contributions, any treaty or law pertaining to that sector must be domesticated. We therefore call on the National Assembly to begin to look at some of them in the interest of the country.

Much as we admit that such seminars are important for bridging the knowledge gap in admiralty law, it is pertinent to recommend that more participants be invited in future in order to expose them to some of the highly technical principles and applications of maritime disputes and adjudication. Undoubtedly, the maritime industry is important and strategic to Nigeria since it is the engine that drives the economy through trade facilitation. We therefore believe that the seminar will help bridge the gap and ensure expeditious dispensation of justice in admiralty cases for the overall interests of the country’s economy.

We commend the commitment of the Nigerian Shippers Council and National Judicial Institute for always bringing members of the bench and other stakeholders together for the sake of instituting more comprehensive ways of attending to pressing marital issues of Nigeria’s economy. But they could do more. We urge the authorities to commence the process of domesticating those international rules and conventions which will govern maritime activities between Nigeria and other countries.