From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos
Pending the determination of its application for protection, a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has granted an interim injunction stopping the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) from terminating the role of INTELS Nigeria Limited (INTELS) as manning agent in the Pilotage Districts of Lagos, Warri, Bonny/Port Harcourt and Calabar.
Justice Rilwanu Aikawa granted the injunction in the suit, FHC/L/CS/1058/2020, filed against NPA by INTELS and Deep Offshore Service Nigeria Limited, requesting the court to restrain the respondent from preventing them from performing their duties as managing agent, pending the determination of ongoing arbitration proceedings.
The order, issued on Friday, August 28, 2020, before the court adjourned the matter to September 15, 2020 for hearing on the originating motion on notice, restrained “the respondent, its servants, agents, and/or privies from giving effect to the purported notice of expiration issued it on August 5, 2020.”
It also restrained NPA from taking any other step to prevent the parties from performing their duties and obligations under the agreements of February 11, 2011 and August 24, 2018 between it and INTELS, pending the determination of the originating motion of August 12, 2020 seeking interim measures of protection in support of the pending arbitration between the parties therein.
Consequent upon the order, the management of INTELS, in a statement Thursday, asked the shipping community to disregard NPA’s marine information purportedly terminating its operation, as it was issued in contempt of the court.
In a statement, INTELS said it read with surprise the NPA’s Notice 11 of 2020, which was dated September 1, 2020 and circulated on different public fora on September 3, 2020, titled, “Marine Information.”
In the said notice, “the NPA purported to give notice to all its stakeholders in Nigeria and abroad that the boat service operation ‘hitherto (previously) handled by a third-party company, the Integrated Logistics Services (INTELS) Nigeria, has been terminated,” INTELS said.
“The NPA went on to further give notice that all service boat owners and operators are ‘to do transactions directly in each port complex.’ NPA’s publication is highly selective, inaccurate and should be disregarded, as it seeks to circumvent legal due process.
“Indeed, a dispute has arisen over NPA’s right to terminate our role as managing agent in the Pilotage Districts of Lagos, Warri, Bonny/Port-Harcourt and Calabar. This dispute has been submitted to arbitration, and the arbitral proceedings have already commenced.
“Notwithstanding the pendency of arbitral proceedings, NPA issued a letter dated August 5, 2020, wherein it asserted that our appointment will expire by August 8, 2020, and that it will thereafter regard ‘all obligations arising’ therefrom ‘as closed.’
“To preserve the status-quo pending the outcome of the arbitration, we instituted legal proceedings before the Federal High Court, Lagos, to restrain the NPA from placing reliance on this letter or taking any other step to prevent INTELS performing its duties as managing agent, pending the determination of the arbitration proceedings.”
INTELS noted that on the same Friday, August 28 that the court order was given, its “solicitors dispatched a letter to the NPA to inform it of the existence of the suit and the orders granted by the court. Indeed, a certified true copy of the order has today been served on NPA by the bailiff of the court.
“Given its knowledge of the restraining orders, it is very unfortunate that the NPA would proceed to issue Notice 11 of NPA as well as any other communication of this kind to stakeholders. This publication clearly has no basis as it was issued in contempt of the court, and the general public is advised to entirely disregard it.”