Mrs. Jean-Chiazor Anishere (SAN) is the Principal Counsel of Jean-Chiazor and Partners. She is also a former Continental President of African Women in Maritime (WIMAFRICA). In this exclusive chat with News Diet, she speaks on a wide range of maritime transport issues in Nigeria and Africa with emphasis on legal matters and women. Enjoy it:
The absence of National Transport Policy is believed to have left Nigeria’s transport sector without sufficient legal framework for sustainable development. What’s your take on this issue?
You are absolutely correct on this. The National Transport Policy is a necessary tool for the growth and efficient legal framework for the sustainable development of our maritime space. Every maritime nation properly so called, has a Transport Policy and a functional one too. A National Maritime Transport Policy is a statement of principles and objectives to guide decisions in the maritime transport sector with a view to achieving the maritime vision of a country and ensuring that the sector is governed in an efficient, safe and environmentally sound manner.
A well-structured National Maritime Transport Policy, can give a country the tools it needs to become an efficient participant in the maritime sector and to harness the full potential of the blue economy. Thus, it is very important for the Nigerian President to sign and pass the bill on our draft NTP into law, by giving his accent to it as recommended by the National Assembly. It is also worthy of note that Maritime Transport is an essential component of any programme for sustainable development; because the world relies on a safe, secure and efficient shipping industry. I will also add that a good and well implemented NTP may pave way to category C for Nigeria, if not to a higher category at the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
Having authored several books on Admiralty law and amassed decades of experience in maritime law, how would you rate the quality and speed of judgements?
As the Editor-in-Chief of Admiralty Law Reports of Nigeria, I am privy to most of the judgments on maritime issues delivered by our courts of competent jurisdiction. These courts are the Federal High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. I must say that the Federal High Court which is the Court of first instance on Admiralty matters, has turned out quite a huge number of good judgments on Admiralty and the speed of delivery of these judgments are quite commendable considering that we have a few number of the judges versed in Admiralty matters. Thus, you can imagine a situation whereby about six or seven judges of the Federal High Court versed in Admiralty issues, turn out over forty judgements in a legal year!
The Court of Appeal has also impressed me with the huge number of judgements delivered by it on appeals relating to Admiralty. The only snag is that the Court of Appeal treats appeals on Admiralty, like any other civil appeal. No special attention is given to appeals on Admiralty by giving them earlier hearing dates. However, this might be pardonable, considering the fact that the justices of the Court of Appeal are equally overwhelmed with judgements! Notwithstanding their Lordships’ nerve wrecking work schedule, they still turn out an impressive list of judgements on Admiralty, in good time as supposed to ‘ship time’.
In all, the Federal High Court turns out more judgments on Admiralty matters and faster than the Appellate Courts. The Supreme Court does not give preference to Admiralty matters, in terms of issuing speedy hearing dates to appeals on Admiralty. We still have to also join the long queues of civil appeals awaiting hearing dates; but once the appeal is heard, judgments will be delivered within three months thereafter.
The Supreme Court is not inaundated with Maritime appeals as the Court of Appeal, and as such, few judgments are delivered at the Apex Court in this regard. However, on the quality of these judgments by the 3 tiers of Court enumerated, I respectfully rate them good and encouraging for our maritime jurisprudence whilst it is work in progress for our maritime judgments to fully satisfy or be rated at par with Maritime Courts in Europe and the United Kingdom.
Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) pioneered annual seminar for judges and NIMASA followed suit with similar yearly conferences, have these programmes helped to improve the judgments passed in recent years?
The annual maritime seminar for judges pioneered by Shippers’ Council and now followed by NIMASA both in collaboration with the National Judicial Institute (NJI), has tremendously assisted our revered Judges and Justices of the Appellate Courts in sharing knowledge and experiences on the topics. Consequently, these seminars are useful and necessary for a regular update on maritime law and practice towards an effective and speedy adjudication of maritime matters.
As a pioneer member of the faculty of the Maritime Seminar for Judges organized bi-annually by NSC in collaboration with NJI, and now a member of the training faculty for NIMASA’s likewise seminar, I highly recommend a continued and more robust seminar for our Judges and Justices of the Appellate Courts on maritime issues. On this, I must commend the recent efforts put together by the Nigerian Maritime Law Association (NMLA) in collaboration with NJI on further training and exchange of knowledge on maritime issues, with our Judges and Justices of the Appellate Courts.
These seminars from NSC, NIMASA and now NMLA, all in collaboration with the NJI, for our Judges and Justices of Appellate Courts on maritime issues help shape the context of judgments.
At this point, it is important to note that NMLA is the premier body of maritime lawyers in Nigeria, and it also has membership of industry organisations, government agencies and law firms.
Blue economy is rated as one of Nigeria’s most promising sector but it has been hampered by numerous issues ranging from maritime security to policies, paucity of funds and investments, among others. How close is Nigeria to fully harnessing its maritime sector gains?
The Blue Economy is indeed Nigeria’s most promising sector and whilst I agree with you on the challenges you enumerated as facing its implementation and sustainability, issues and problems bring with them challenges and opportunities and the Blue Economy offer a suite of opportunities for sustainable, clean, equitable blue growth in both traditional and emerging sectors. 80 percent of global trade by volume, over 70 percent by value, is carried by sea and handled by ports worldwide.
For developing countries such as Nigeria, these percentages are typically higher and as a coastal country, Nigeria needs to position itself in terms of facilities and capacities to cater for this growing trade and optimize their benefits. It is worthy of note, that the world’s seaborne trade grew 4 percent in 2011, to 8.7 billion tons despite the global economic crisis and container traffic is projected to triple by 2030! And you know that our domain or jurisdiction, is more container traffic related.
Blue Economy is an emerging concept which encourages better stewardship of our ocean or “blue resources.” The Blue Economy refers to economic activities that are both based in, and which are actively good for the ocean; though definitions vary. Therefore, Nigeria needs to tap into the various opportunities and benefits accruable thereto, to fully harness its gains. How close are we to achieving this? Not too close. I will say, it’s still work in progress for us in Nigeria.
The world is tilting towards cleaner fuels and the 2022 World Maritime Day celebration was themed; “New Technologies for Greener Shipping.” Is it appropriate to begin slamming penalties on non-compliant vessels in Nigeria?
Well, I guess it will be rather hasty for us to do that, noting that we have paucity of vessels due to paucity of funds and our government’s aloofness to the plight of our ship-owners. Moreover, we need to first create the enabling environment that will make our ship owners robust in complying with the new technologies for greener shipping. Thereafter, appropriate penalties could be imposed on defaulting vessel owners.
However, please note that by making our ship owners robust in the shipping trade, there is a need to have good and functional National Transport Policy as enumerated earlier, amongst other good policies and good infrastructures for a sustainable and effective logistic supply chain. So let’s not put the carte before the horse as they say.
Despite the IMO low sulphur rule which stipulates a maximum sulphur content of 0.5 percent, there are concerns that there isn’t a legal framework to enforce this in Nigeria as it isn’t among the six MARPOL Annexes ratified in the country. Will there be legal complications with this regulation?
Change is constant; so is our legal framework. I am certain that this will be taken into consideration by the NMLA in collaboration with the Federal High Court, in order to ensure that there is no lacuna in our laws, that may foist a situation of helplessness on our industry stakeholders in this regard.
I must not forget to state that we at the NMLA, will also approach the Federal Ministry of Justice on this matter. It’s going to be a joint effort before we approach the relevant arm of the National Assembly, to seal our efforts.
As a former President of African Women in Maritime (WIMAFRICA), how would you rate the level of Nigerian women’s participation in the sector and in the continent?
Nigerian women’s participation in the maritime sector is encouraging from the statistics of membership garnered from the NGOs for maritime women in Nigeria; to wit: WISTA-NIGERIA , WILAT-NIGERIA, WIMA-NIGERIA, and FESAN – (Female Seafarers Association of Nigeria). I am convinced that our women are coming out in their thousands in the near future.
In the African continent, women’s participation in the maritime space is also encouraging. At least in the 27 African Countries, in which WIMAFRICA has branches, we have over two thousand female participants. Now, I know you might wonder what is encouraging in thousands as opposed to millions? I say thousands are encouraging because from our African tradition and culture, women participation in what is termed to be “a Man’s world” cannot be imagined! So you see, the journey of ten thousand miles, begins in a day.