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  • P.C.H.S. Co. Ltd v. Migfo (Nig.) Ltd
  • 642
  • 2012-09-17
  • ₦ 200
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P.C.H.S. Co. Ltd v. Migfo (Nig.) Ltd

PORTS AND CARGO HANDLINGS SERVICES COMPANY LIMITED

SIFAX NIGERIA LIMITED

MR. BABATUNDE OLARENWAJU AFOLABI

OTUNBA MICHAEL OLATUNDE OLOWU

V

MIGFO NIGERIA LIMITED

DENCA SERVICES LIMITED

SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA

ALOMA MARIAM MUKHTAR JSC ( Presided )

FRANCIS FEDODE TABAI JSC

SULEIMAN GALADIMA JSC ( Read the Lead Judgment )

NWALI SYLVESTER NGWUTA JSC

OLUKAYODE ARIWOOLA JSC

SC.42/2009

FRIDAY, 8 JUNE 2012

APPEAL - Brief of argument - Connotation of - Good brief - Hallmarks of

APPEAL - Concurrent findings by lower courts - Where based on wrong premise - Supreme Court - Attitude of thereto

APPEAL - Ground of appeal - Purport of - Where alleges error of law

 Relevant passage of trial court’s judgment - Quotation of Needlessness of

CONTRACT - Specific performance - Order of - Claim for without existence of contract - Impropriety of

COURT - Federal High Court - Admiralty jurisdiction of - Management and operation of a port - Matter related to - Whether falls within COURT - Jurisdiction of - Determinant of

COURT - Supreme Court - Attitude of to concurrent findings of lower courts based on wrong premises

INTERPRETATION OF STATUTES - Statute - Specific things - Mention of therein - Effect of

JURISDICTION - Determinant of - Plaintiffs claim as

JURISDICTION - Federal High Court - Admiralty jurisdiction of Management and operation of a port - Matter related to - Whether falls within

JURISDICTION - Statutoriness of - Expansion of - Impropriety of

MARITIME LAW - Federal High Court - Admiralty jurisdiction of Management and operation of a port - Matter related to - Whether falls within

PLEADINGS - Originating summons - Affidavit in support of Depositions and averments in - Nature of

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - Originating summons - Affidavit in support of - Depositions and averments in - Nature of

Issue:

Whether, considering the clear provisions of section 251(1)(g) of the 1999  Constitution on which the trial High Court relied to assume jurisdiction in this matter, coupled with the claims submitted to the said High Court by the respondents, as well as binding decisions of both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal on the Federal High Court’s jurisdiction in similar circumstances, the lower court was not in grave error to have held as it did that the Federal High Court rightly assumed jurisdiction in this matter.

Facts:

The plaintiffs commenced an action in the Federal High Court,

Lagos State via originating summons seeking determination, inter alia, of the following questions, whether having expressed the intentions, declarations, understanding, joint venture agreement and irrevocable commitments contained in the technical proposal/bid agreement submitted to the Bureau of Public Enterprises by the plaintiffs and the 2nd defendant in the name of the 2nd defendant in respect of their bidding for the management and operation of terminal C, Tin Can Island Port, Apapa, Lagos, the plaintiffs and the 2nd defendant are not bound by the said declarations, understanding, joint ventures agreements and irrevocable commitments at law and in equity and whether having regard to the part performance of the aforesaid intentions, joint venture agreement, commitment and understanding by the plaintiffs, the 2nd defendant should not be compelled to fully perform the joint venture agreement and irrevocable commitments and understanding it entered into with the plaintiffs. They prayed the court for declaratory reliefs to the effect that; the terms of the agreement are binding on the parties; the parties are joint bidders for and joint venture partners in respect of the above mentioned port and entitled to participate jointly in the business; and order directing the 2 nd defendant to specifically perform the intentions and irrevocable commitments expressed by the parties in the technical proposal/documents and their executed memorandum of understanding on the shareholding and management structures of the joint venture as relating to the 1st defendant and its business as manager/operator of the said port. The defendants raised a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the trial court. The objection was dismissed and the claims were granted. Aggrieved, the defendants appealed to the Court of Appeal where the decision of the trial court was affirmed. Yet aggrieved, they appealed to the Supreme Court. The plaintiffs filed a preliminary objection to the appeal.

In determination of the appeal, the Supreme Court considered the following statutes;

Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, section 251(1)(g):

“Any admiralty jurisdiction including shipping and navigation on the River Niger or River Benue and their affluences, and on such other inland waterway as may be designated by any enactment to be an international waterway, at federal ports ( including the constitution and powers of the ports authorities for federal ports and carriage by sea.” Admiralty Jurisdiction Act, section 1(1)(g):

1(1)  “The admiralty jurisdiction of the Federal High Court (in this Act referred to as “the court”) includes the following:

  1. Any matter arising within a federal port or national airport

and its precincts, including claims for loss of or damage to goods occurring between the off-loading of goods across space, from a ship or any aircraft and their delivery at the consignee’s premises, or during storage or transportation before delivery to the consignee.

  1. ...
  2. Any cause or matter arising from the constitution and powers of all port authorities, airport authority and the

National Maritime Authority.” Federal High Court Act, section 7(3):

7(3) “Where jurisdiction is conferred upon the court under subsections (1), (2) and (3) of this section, such jurisdiction shall be construed to include jurisdiction to hear and determine all issues relating to, arising from or ancillary to such subject matter (Italics for emphasis).”