Can parties agree to oust jurisdiction of Nigerian Court over admiralty matters?
On Whether parties can by agreement oust the jurisdiction of Nigerian Court over admiralty matters:
By virtue of section 20 of the Admiralty Jurisdiction Act, 1991, any agreement by any person or party to any cause, matter or action which seeks to oust the jurisdiction of the court shall be null and void if:
(a) The place of performance, execution, delivery, act or default takes place in Nigeria; or
(b) Any of the parties reside in Nigeria or has resided in Nigeria; or
(c) The payment under the agreement is made or to be made in Nigeria; or
(d) Under any convention for the time being in force to which Nigeria is a party; or
(e) In the opinion of the court, the cause, matter or action should be adjudicated upon in Nigeria.
In the instant case, the parties resided in Nigeria: the default in the shipment was detected during delivery of the goods in Nigeria and the law of the contract in the bills of loading is The Hague Rules, 1924 in force and to which Nigeria is a party.
Furthermore, The Hague Rules, 1924 are applicable in Germany by virtue of the Hamburg Rules, 1930.
In the circumstance, the Court of Appeal took the right decision when it did not determine, going by clause 2 of the bills of lading, the country of shipment.
JFS Inv. Ltd v. Brawai Line Ltd (2010) 18 NWLR , PT. 1225, 495 @ 531-532, paras G-E)