The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, on Friday, set aside a judgment of the Federal High Court in Lagos which exempted the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Limited from levies payable to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency under the NIMASA Act, Cabotage Act, Marine Environment (Sea Protection Levy) Regulations, and other laws of the federation. In a lead judgment by Justice Mohammed Garba, the appellate court ordered the return of the case file to the Federal High Court for fresh hearing.
NIMASA’s lead counsel, Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), had contended that the Federal High Court did not give his client fair hearing before arriving at its decisions. The dispute between the NLNG and NIMASA stemmed from the alleged refusal of the NLNG to pay three per cent of the gross freight on all international out-bound and in-bound cargoes carried by ships chartered by the NLNG and its wholly-owned subsidiary company as contained in the NIMASA Act 2007. NIMASA alleged that “the NLNG disregarded the country’s maritime laws, particularly sections of the NIMASA Act that mandates payment of levies based on gross freight on exports and imports and the Cabotage Law.” “Since its inception, the NLNG has cherry-picked our laws. All efforts to get the management to meet its obligations to NIMASA have been treated with impunity,” NIMASA contended. NIMASA had sued the NLNG, praying the court to interpret the relevant provisions of the NLNG (Fiscal Incentives, Guarantees and Assurances) Act, CAP N87, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990, and the NIMASA Act of 2007. In an October 3, 2017 judgment by Justice Mohammed Idris (now Court of Appeal Justice), the Federal High Court in Lagos held that NLNG was not liable to pay three per cent gross freight on in-bound and out-bound cargoes and sea protection levies, among others. But the displeased NIMASA appealed, contending that it did not get a fair hearing.