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Appeal court orders terminal operators to pay N3tn of illegal port charges

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By Godwin Oritse & Onozure Dania

lagos—THE Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos has ordered  the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria, STOAN, to account for all arbitrary charges collected by them over and above the rates fixed by the authorities amounting to about N3 trillion.

Similarly, the appellate court has affirmed Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, as Ports Economic Regulator.

Judicial symbol for justice

In its judgment read by Justice C. Uwa, the court affirmed the judgment of the Federal High Court which held that STOAN had no locus standi to arbitrary increase tariffs at the ports and directed STOAN and its members to stop tariff increase without following due process.

Reacting to the judgment, Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of NSC,  Hassan Bello said the judgment would enable all stakeholders to come to the round table for the overall success of the Nigerian Maritime industry.

He said the judgment did not declare anybody winner or loser, noting “When any stakeholder wins, everybody wins and anybody loses, everybody loses.”

The judgment, according to Bello, only called for the cooperation of both the public and private institutions operating in the industry, declaring that all the council was interested in making the maritime a value adding sector of the nation’s economy.

Similarly,  National Publicity Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Mr. Kayode Farinto, said the judgment was a welcomed development and hoped that the terminal operators will not go to Supreme Court.

He said “The era of impunity is gone. Gone are the days when any service provider will slam arbitrary charges on Nigerian bound cargoes.”

Speaking after the judgment, counsel to the Shippers Association Lagos State, Emmanuel Nwagbara, said the court upheld the judgment of the lower court reversing storage charges collected by the terminal operators and the increase in the free storage period at the ports from three to seven days.

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