The 13th edition of the biennial Seminar for Judges organized by the Nigerian Shippers Council in collaboration with the National Judicial Institute kicked off in Abuja today. The three-day seminar with the theme, “Sustainable Development in the Nation’s Maritime Sector” drew participants from within and outside Nigeria. As usual, eminent legal luminaries within the Common Law jurisdiction featured as resource persons in the seminar which recorded the highest attendance of judges and legal practitioners since inception 13 years ago.
The biennial seminar received both national and international acclaim as a veritable forum for cross-fertilization of ideas. Among the main beneficiaries of the seminar include Judges and Justices of the Superior Courts of Record (Federal and States High Courts, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court), legal practitioners and stakeholders in the shipping and transport industry.
Declaring the seminar open, the Chief Justice of the federation, Mrs. Mariam Aloma Muktar said the problem of proper implementation of maritime laws is the bane of the maritime industry. She said the sector is full of potentials that are largely untapped for the benefits of the Nigerian people. She said the seminar would at the sector from all angles as well as other emerging issues in the sector.
“There have been incessant reports of pirate attacks on Nigerian waters. Most of the people involved have been discovered to have entered the country illegally. The Nigerian legal system has taken this very seriously as the fight against piracy goes beyond shooting guns,” Muktar said.
She stressed the need to put in place legal policies that will ensure the development of the nation’s maritime industry.
“There is need to restructure and reform the Nigerian system to solve the problems in the industry,” she said, adding that “the main purpose of the seminar is to sensitize the judges on what is expected of them when adjudicating on maritime matters.”
She stressed the need for judges to be up to date on the emerging trends in maritime law.
“The judiciary should be ready to make justice accessible and affordable to all,” she stressed and urged the participants to apply themselves seriously to the discussions of the topics slated for this year’s seminar.
Former Nigerian interim President, Dr. Ernest Shonekan who chaired the ceremony emphasized that the seminar aims at updating judges in the High Courts, Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court, legal practitioners and other stakeholders in on legal developments in the maritime industry.
“The consistency of the seminar over the years, the high quality of the discussions and presentations by eminent jurists who in many cases participated as resource persons and participants at the seminar have not only continued to give local and international acceptance to the seminar, it has also continued to draw more participants from within and outside the country and has given the seminar the much needed international image across the continent,” he said.
Shonekan observed that the issues slated for discussion in the three-day seminar which include, maritime law and jurisdiction, piracy, armed robbery at sea and maritime boundaries in Nigeria were very critical to the sustainable development of the country.
The former Head of State stated that this year’s seminar will focus on other maritime related issues such as charter parties, lay time and demurrage, an overview of Section 20 of the Admiralty Jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, liability of terminal operators and marine insurance as related to oil and gas.
According to Shonekan, modern shipping and the revolution in the global shipping has “resulted in complexities of trade among countries and among trading partners thereby creating the need for legal interpretation of many provisions of the Admiralty law.
He stressed the need for quick dispensation of justice which, he said, has become more important today than before because of the dynamics of the maritime environment. He therefore urged the industry operators and stakeholders to update themselves on the new ideas, information and technologies that are emerging and also adapt to the changes while allowing the legal aspect to be handled by the judicial system.
Some of the attendees were the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Hon. Adoke Bello, President, Court of Appeal, Hon Zainab Adamu, President National Industrial Court, E.A Adejumo, Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Justices of the Appeal Court, Justices of the State High Courts. Justice of Supreme Court of Ghana represented by Justice Bawa Akamba among a host of national and international legal luminaries.