By Godfrey Bivbere
An importer, Clement Okonkwo has dragged the management of the AP Moller Terminals and a principal officer of the company, Mr. Campbell, to a Lagos High Court over excess charges slammed on him by the Concessioner of the container terminal.
Mr Okonkwo in his suit is contending that the defendants had over charged his client extra 17 days amounting to N324,000.00 for a container which the shipping agency that brought it to the country said arrived the country on14th of December, 2008.
The plaintiff said APMT which was contracted to warehouse the container however claimed that the container arrived the country on the 25th of November, 2008 and went on to charge his client the above amount for the extra 17 days.
The defendants however filed a preliminary objection arguing that the court has no jurisdiction to hear the matter because it is an admiralty matter which should be handled by a federal high court, an argument which the court disagreed with in its judgement on the matter on the 15th of December, 2009.
Justice O.A. Akinlade had said in the judgement that â€œthe mere fact the transaction between the defendant and the client occurred within the Tin-can port will definitely not oust the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court in this matter.â€
Akinlade also noted in the judgement that â€œthe Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal have held in several cases that the admiralty jurisdiction of the Federal High Court cannot be invoked once the goods on board of a ship have been discharged on the harbour or delivered to the point destination ofÂ the cargo.â€
The defendantâ€™s lawyers however filed a motion for stay of proceedings pending the determination of an appealÂ that they filed against the ruling.
The defendantâ€™s grounds of appeal were based on the following: â€œthe learned trial judge erred in law when she held that the High Court ofÂ Lagos State had jurisdiction to entertain this suit.
â€œthe learned trial Judge failed to consider the subject matter of the suit within the admiralty jurisdiction conferred exclusively on the Federal High by section 251(1) (g) ofÂ Â the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.â€
Mr. Patrick Okafor, Managing Director of Paxon Gold Industrial Co. Ltd, the clearing agent of the importer, toldÂ Saturday Vanguard that he was happy that they have gone to court to seek protection and expressedÂ hope that judgement would be in their favour.