The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) penultimate week wilfully refused to obey an order of the Federal High Court restraining it from terminating the boat pilotage, monitoring and supervision agreement it signed with Intels Nigeria Limited.
In spite of the court order, NPA proceeded to issue a marine notice informing stakeholders in Nigeria and abroad that the said contract had been terminated, and instructed all service boat owners and operators to do transactions directly with NPA in each of its port complexes.
This is surprising because the Federal High Court issued a clear injunction restraining NPA from terminating the role of the company as manning agent in the Pilotage Districts of Lagos, Warri, Bonny/Port Harcourt and Calabar pending the determination of ongoing arbitration proceedings. Hon. Justice R.M. Aikawa had granted the interim injunction in the suit number FHC/L/CS/1058/2020 based on an application filed by Intels Nigeria Limited and Deep Offshore Services Nigeria Limited against the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
The court on Friday August 28, 2020 granted the duo the interim injunction stopping NPA from preventing them from performing their duties as manning agent, pending the determination of ongoing arbitration proceedings. It will be recalled that the said contract with NPA had been a subject of arbitration.
One is shocked that, in spite of the court injunction, NPA on September 1, 2020 still went ahead to issue a notice notifying the shipping community that it had terminated the contract. This is in addition to not having any regards for the ongoing arbitral proceedings.
From all intents and purposes, the action of NPA is quite reprehensible. The propensity of government officials to disregard court orders is gradually becoming the norm; and this should be a cause for concern to right-thinking members of the public.
NPA’s decision to flout an order of the Federal High Court is, to say the least, most reproachable, and deserves condemnation in its entirety. We seriously deplore the action of NPA in disobeying a court injunction and flagrantly disregarding arbitral proceedings to which it is a party. The order of a court of justice must be obeyed at all times no matter how unpalatable or unpleasant a party finds it.
Obedience to court orders is one of the hallmarks of democracy. It ensures that the society does not lapse into lawlessness. It is, therefore, a sad commentary when an agency of government is found to be disobeying court orders or holding the courts of justice in contempt. This does not portray the government in power in good light.
It is for this reason that the Nigerian Ports Authority should be called to order. NPA should be warned against impunity or further attempts to trample on the court of justice of the land. If this kind of lawlessness is allowed to continue, the country will be sending danger signals to foreign investors whose confidence is bound to be badly shaken. Genuine investors’ confidence will surely be destroyed while fraudulent ones will exploit the unfriendly practice to fleece the country.
NPA should, therefore, be warned to refrain from actions such as this that might put the country in a precarious condition It is hoped that the court will take the appropriate steps to preserve its sanctity.