Nigerian maritime lawyers begin admiralty law reforms

To restore industry confidence in, and boost dispute resolution efficiency in admiralty law and practice in the country, the Nigerian Maritime Law Association (NMLA) has constituted a reforms committee to lead the efforts in improving key procedural rules and substantive law.

The 16-member body, named “The Nigeria Admiralty Law and Procedure Reform Committee,” is co-chaired by Mrs. Jean Chiazor-Anishere and Sir Osuala Nwagbara, while members include Mrs. Omolola Ikwuagwu, Mr. Nelson Otaji and Ms. Chisa Uba.

Others are Mr. Babatunde Ogungbamila, Sir Adolphus Nwachukwu, Mr. Adedoyin Afun, Dr. Echefu Ukattah, Mr. Nonso Azih, Mr. Olukayode Dada and Ms. Kashimana Tsumba, with Prof. Gbolahan Elias (SAN), Mr. Dolapo Akinrele (SAN), Dr. Wale Olawoyin (SAN) and Mr. Olumide Sofowora (SAN) as advisory members.  

The committee, which report is expected by May 25, is “expected to propose initiatives and implementation strategies for repositioning admiralty law practice with a particular focus on “achieving speed in filing, assignment, hearing and determination of admiralty matters;

“Implementation of a modern fit-for-purpose Admiralty Registry; Review of procedural rules, particularly Admiralty Jurisdiction Procedure Rules and Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules; and “Reform of substantive law, in particular 1999 Constitution, Admiralty Jurisdiction Act and Federal High Court Act.”

In a statement co-signed by the President, L. Chidi Ilogu (SAN), and Honorary Secretary, Emeka Akabogu, the body explained that it “has observed the steady decline of admiralty law and practice over the years, largely as a result of sub-optimal procedural rules and poor judicial interpretation of substantive law.

“Judicial decisions have not been consistent with standard global expectations, while speed, which is at the heart of functional admiralty litigation, has taken a back-seat.

“In the result, a number of significant maritime interests are no longer keen on having Nigeria as a jurisdiction for adjudication of their disputes.”

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