Lagos — Maritime lawyers in Nigeria have commended the Bi-annual International Maritime Seminar for Judges saying that “The meeting has brought about the development and growth of admiralty justice system in Nigeria and the West African sub-region.
Speaking to Newsmen on the relevance and impact of the seminar, Barrister Osuala Nwagbara, said that over the years, judges and lawyers alike have gained more knowledge as a result of the seminar.
Nwagbara also said that not many Universities offer specialized courses in maritime law adding that the seminar has provided an avenue for both lawyers anf Judges to get further educated on admiralty matters.
He stated: “I am sure you know that not many Universities in Nigeria offers Maritime law as a specialist course in their curriculum, as a result of that studies in maritime law as a specialization has always been done in Universities abroad. As result of that very few people specialize in this area that has international flavour.
“ So the Nigerian Shippers Council thought fit that the Nigerian Judges will decide maritime Admiralty cases which has this international flavour and many of whom have been appointed from High Courts of the State and other High Courts, through the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Courts, they never had opportunities at the time of their appointment to the Court of criminal records of discussing Admiralty cases.
“That the best thing that can happen is to take them through Admiralty cases by inviting persons who have specialist knowledge of international admiralty law to present papers and have interactions with these Judges who is being experienced in commercial law generally and other areas of the law are in a position to comprehend and interact with these specialists in this area.
“And in doing, they pass a good knowledge of this law with a view to applying them in a rendition of their Judgment which would stand the test of the International community in this area of the law.
“So the impact has been overwhelming, we have seen Judgements delivered by Nigerian Courts ranking very highly at parity to Judgments delivered by Admiralty Judges in other climes.
“The impact has been that persons who have cases in these areas have confidence that Nigerian Judges being knowledgeable in this area will deliver sound judgments’’.
Speaking in similar vein, a Senior Advocate of Senior, SAN, Mr. Mike Igbokwe, said that admiralty law is a specialised area of law that was not being thought in Nigerian Universities until recently.
The Nigerian Shipper’s Council started the Seminar in conjunction with the National Judicial Institute in line with the provisions of its statute.
He stated: “As you are aware, admiralty law is a specialized area of law that until recently Nigerian universities were not teaching and the Federal High Court is the court conferred with jurisdiction to entertain and determine admiralty cases and matters. Consequently, many of those appointed Judges of the Federal High Court or Justices of the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court did not have any education or training in admiralty law before their appointments. They gained their admiralty experience on the bench. The Seminar is a continuing legal education that tries to fill this vacuum.’’
The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Mr. Emmanuel Jime, said that the Seminar has created a platform through which Justices/Judges of various courts, both in Nigeria and the West African sub-region are enriched with the requisite jurisprudence to enable them to face the challenges of interpretation and application of both domestic and international maritime law principles in the settlement of shipping and maritime-related disputes/claims.
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