Lack of electricity stalls suit on Cabotage, NNPC shuns proceedings

Justice Buba of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos was yesterday forced to adjourn the suit brought by an indigenous shipping company, Polmaz Limited, against the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC) for undermining provisions of the nation’s Coastal and Inland Shipping Act otherwise known as the Cabotage Law.

NNPC and PPMC also failed to show up in court yesterday.

The judge had to adjourn the much anticipated case to Feb. 18 due to power failure from the national grid even as the generator within the premises failed to start thereby subjecting those seated in the court to intense heat and disconfort.

The Cabotage Law, enacted by an Act of the National Assembly in 2003, makes trading on the nation’s territorial waters the exclusive preserve of Nigerian-flagged ships. The Law states in part: “A vessel other than a vessel wholly owned and manned by Nigerian citizens, built and registered in Nigeria shall not engage in the domestic coastal carriage of cargo and passengers within the coastal territorial inland waters, or any point within the waters of the exclusive economic zone of Nigeria.”

Polmaz Nigeria Limited, in a statement issued last Friday, said it decided to institute the court action against NNPC, PPMC and other foreign shipping companies operating on Nigeria’s coastal waters because they did not obtain license or waivers from the Minister of Transport as required by the Cabotage Law.

“The action instituted by Polmaz Limited against NNPC, PPMC and all the foreign flagged tankers presently under their charter will be presided over by Justice Buba of the Federal High Court. This case will be a landmark for the determination of the success or otherwise of the Cabotage Act.

“The action is to determine whether it was legal for foreign flagged vessels that have not been duly registered by the Minister of transport to legally operate in Nigeria. This action is being taken by Polmaz and the support of the maritime industry most especially the Nigerian Indigenous Shipowners Association, maritime correspondents, maritime administrators/practitioners and maritime lawyers,” the company stated.