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Nigeria’s Admiralty law is archaic, says Agbakoba

Dr Olisa Agbakoba


Dr Olisa
Agbakoba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and maritime lawyer, has described
Nigeria’s Admiralty law as archaic.

The maritime
lawyer stated this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in
Lagos.
NAN reports
that Admiralty law or maritime law is a body of both domestic law governing
maritime activities, and private international law governing the relationships
between private entities that operate vessels on the oceans.
Agbakoba
said that although Nigeria’s Admiralty law had not effectively supported
shipping development, the role of people in making the system function
appropriately, was of greater importance.
He, however,
added that investors would not be encouraged to put in money to maritime
business in Nigeria, considering that there were laws backing the various
operations in the sector. 
“First, you
need people; you need policy makers; whether there is law or no law, if you
have good people, they will deliver.
“For
instance, people don’t know that in the UK there is no constitution, yet they
understand what the 
conventions are; there is rule of law and people obey the
law, yet there is no constitution.
“So, the
fact that there isn’t a well- developed Admiralty law, in my view, isn’t why we
are where we are.
“Having said
that, Nigeria’s admiralty law is archaic, undeveloped and can be substantially
upgraded because investors who put money into the maritime sector or any sector,
first need advice of their legal people as to whether should we bring money in?
“So, if I
was an investor wanting to come into the maritime sector with a billion dollars
and I ask what sector do I want to invest in, and I say shipping, and I look at
the shipping laws and they are not upgraded, I wouldn’t invest.”
 Agbakoba  also said that the non-passage of the Port
and Harbour Bill  would  discourage investors from making reasonable
investments in the ports.
He noted
that there was no legal backbone to encourage public private partnership in the
maritime sector, which had been drawing attention as the sector to sustain the
nation’s economy.

“Then, if I
look at the ports and I wanted to put money there and I find that in fact there
is no law at all; the Port and Harbour Bill has been in the National Assembly
for about eight years, why should I put my money there?
“Then, I
look at the Shippers’ Council, the regulator, and I find that there is no Bill,
there is no law supporting their work, then it becomes challenging for me to
want to invest. 
“So, in
summary, the critical law that aid investments isn’t in place; there is nothing
to encourage private investors to work with government.
 “There is no legal backbone to encourage
public private sector partnerships. So, Nigeria is still under-developed when
it comes to maritime economic activity.”

Agbakoba
said it would also be difficult to bring ships into Nigeria, considering
maritime safety and security since the Nigerian Maritime Administration and
Safety Agency (NIMASA) had been saddled with too many responsibilities.
He advised
that the incoming government should consider appointing a professional who
understands the multi-modal process, to head a new transport ministry for the
benefit of the nation’s economy.
He said such
professionalism was needed to coordinate the various sub-sectors of shipping,
aviation, land transport, railways, inland waterways and Inland Container
Deports for a more effective maritime industry.

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