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.