Port charges: Shippers’ Council floors STOAN at Appeal Court

THE Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos, late on Tuesday upheld the judgement of the Federal High Court between the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) and terminal operators under the aegis of the Seaports Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) over shipping charges.
It would be recalled that STOAN had gone to court to challenge the decision of the Council reversing storage charges collected by the terminal operators and the increase of the free storage period at the ports from three to seven days.
The association had lost in the Federal High Court as the court upheld the decision of the Federal Government to appoint the Nigerian Shippers Council as ports economic regulatory.
But, in her judgement, Justice Chidi Nwaoma Uwa of the Appeal Court dismissed that the appeal of STOAN has been dismissed even as she upheld the counterclaim of the second respondent, Shippers Association Lagos State (SALS).
Speaking after the judgement, the counsel to SALS, Barrister Emmanuel Nwagbara said that the court upheld the judgement of the lower court reversing storage charges collected by the terminal operators and the increase of the free storage period at the ports from three to seven days.
According to Nwagbara, ” The court of appeal upheld the judgement of the lower court and the appeal of STOAN was dismissed and the counterclaim of the second respondent, which is the Shippers Association Lagos State (SALS), is upheld.
“Recall that one of the issues was whether the interlocutory decision given by Justice Ibrahim Buba should be allowed to stand and this issue was raised on the appeal by the appellant. Also, as a representative of SALS, I filed an objection to that leg of the appeal, arguing that there was no leave sort and granted for the appellant to join that aspect of their complaint to the appeal in respect of the final judgement of the court. That was what the learned Justice was referring to a preliminary objection”
Speaking further he said that the preliminary objection, having succeeded, means there was no valid appeal.
“Preliminary objection having succeeded, it now means that there was no valid appeal against joinder of the SALS at the lower court. And since that joinder was valid, it means that our claims before the court were also valid.
And their aspect of the judgement emphasized on whether SALS should have a counterclaim joined to an originating application which the appellants in this case and others filled at the lower court.
“The court agreed with us that since our interest was affected and was being determined in that suit, it means that SALS had the legal right to join the case and we are rightly joined.
“Therefore we also rightly put counterclaim, and so the counterclaim was upheld here just like the lower court upheld it. Also, this appeal was dismissed and parties were asked to bear their own cost of the appeal,” Nwagbara added.
In his words, there were many grounds of the appeal by the appellant.
“What I have given is the summary of the judgement, which was many grounds of the appeal. In fact, I think they had up to 17-18 rounds 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 rounds. 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 in upholding our claim. and these we believed 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,” he concluded.
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