Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos yesterday said that he would grant accelerated hearings on the suits filed against the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) by the Association of Shipping Line Agencies (ALSA) and the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN).
The highly respected Judge indicated that the cases should be dispensed with before the yuletide holidays set in.
Consequently, he fixed Monday December 1, 2014 for definite hearing in the ALSA case against the NSC over the latter’s order to slash shipping lines agency charges. This was even as he ruled in favour of the Shipping Association of Lagos State (SALS) which had sought to join the suit as second defendant.
Lead Counsel to the plaintiff, Mr. Chidi Ilogu (SAN) had earlier objected to SALS joining the suit as second defendant on the ground that the case at hand had nothing to do with it. He said the matter at hand was for the court to determine whether the Nigerian Shippers’ Council had the powers to unilaterally determine shipping line agency charges (SLAC).
While ruling on the argument in favour of SALS, Justice Buba said the association could join in the suit as second defendant provided it undertakes not to slow down the determination of the case. He also said that SALS would not be allowed to file any amendment to the plaintiff’s position.
SALS lawyer, Mr. Osuala Nwagbara, who explained his client’s interest in the matter agreed to the conditions set by the Judge. Justice Buba consequently adjourned the matter to 1st December 2014 for definite hearing.
The Judge also adjourned to Wednesday 10th December, the matter brought against the NSC by the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN).
It would be recalled that both ASLA and STOAN had sued the NSC over the Council’s attempt to slash shipping agency charges and progressive storage charges collected by terminal operators.
On Wednesday October 29, 2014; the NSC published an advertisement announcing the reversal of storage charges at the ports to that which was in force as at 1st May 2009. It also ordered an increase in the free storage period at the port from three days to seven days.
The Council equally directed shipping companies to reduce their shipping line agency charges from N26, 500 to N23, 850 per TEU and from N48,000 to N40,000 per FEU and refund container deposits to importers and agents within 10 working days after the return of the empty containers.
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