The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC) have asked a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to strike out a suit accusing them of violating the Cabotage Act.
A former Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Director-General, Temisan Omatseye, through his firm, Polmaz Ltd, had asked the court to direct NNPC and PPMC to cancel all contracts with foreign flagged vessels operating in Nigeria’s coastal waters without licence.
The plaintiff had also urged the court to direct the defendants, except NIMASA, to pay fines stipulated in the Cabotage Act for their alleged violation of the law.
Polmaz said NNPC and PPMC engaged the vessels in domestic coastal trade without requisite licenses being issued or any waivers granted to them as stipulate in the Act.
It urged the court to determine whether Nigeria’s shipping laws had not restricted foreign flagged vessels, or vessels not owned or built by Nigerians and registered in Nigeria from engaging in domestic coastal trade within the country’s territorial waters.
Defendants in the suit are NIMASA and the vessels’ operators, Olimpex Nigeria Ltd, Unibros Shipping Corporation, Africulti Ltd, Marika Investments Ltd, Nidas Marine Ltd and Prometheus Maritime Ltd.
The plaintiff is praying the court to declare that the operation of the foreign flagged vessels operated by the fourth to ninth defendants and their engagement by NNPC and PPMC in domestic coastal operations were in clear violation of Section 5 of the Merchant Shipping Act and several sections of the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act, No. 5 of 2003.
At the hearing in the matter on Wednesday, the plaintiff’s counsel told the court that it was illegal for the foreign-owned vessels to operate in Nigeria without licence.
“Until they show they have the requisite permissions, they cannot continue to operate in Nigeria. We urge the court to discountenance the objections of the defendants. What we’re fighting for my Lord is for the benefit of all Nigerians,” the counsel said.
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