The new President of Nigerian Maritime Law Association (NMLA), Olufunke Agbor SAN, has expressed disappointment over the erosion of the admiralty jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, saying “a lot has been said about this and we are all as members united in our resolve to bring the admiralty jurisdiction of the Federal High Court to its rightful place.”
Agbor who emerged as the first female President of the association at the end of the association’s Special General Meeting last week stressed this in her acceptance speech.
Agbor highlighted the rich history and legacies of the Association’s past leaders which she noted has had only four Presidents in 44 years. “I am proud to say that I served with all of them as I became a card-carrying member of the Association in 1985 when I started legal practice in the law firm of Fola Sasegbon of blessed memory, and who was one of the pioneer members of the Association along with Chief C.O. Ogunbanjo, Hon. Justice Babatunde Belgore and, Mr. L.N. Mbanefo SAN and our outgoing President today, Mr. L. Chidi Ilogu SAN.
“I have served as Assistant Secretary, Secretary, 2nd Vice-President, and 1st Vice-President, and starting today, as President of your Association. I am very proud to be a part of this exclusive club, a super league of sorts, and I pledge to do everything in my power and by the special grace of God to build on the successes and the legacies of our past leaders”
Setting out her agenda, she noted the importance of reforms which she assured will be boldly and courageously addressed. “We will continue to build on our strengths but also take on new directions as is necessary. Let us be bold and courageous and not be afraid to try. We have a lot to offer our government, the government agencies we work with the admiralty judiciary and the justice system. Our proposed reforms have been submitted and we will push forward with them both on the legislation and rules and also the Admiralty Registry. We will also begin a workshop of training of Admiralty Judges as supported by the National Judicial Institute (NJI) in June of this year.
“We have to be a rallying point for all things maritime and admiralty. The erosion of the admiralty jurisdiction of the Federal High Court is of great concern and a case in point. A lot has been said about this and we are all as members united in our resolve to bring the admiralty jurisdiction of the Federal High Court to its rightful place. We have a lot of work to do.”
Agbor also extolled the virtues of the outgoing President, Mr. Chidi Ilogu SAN. “I have watched and admired your style of leadership, gentle but firm. Your leadership was steady, assured, pragmatic and always forward-looking. Most importantly you also had a clear vision for the changes needed. Part of your legacy is the proposed reforms of the Nigerian laws and regulations and Court procedural rules governing admiralty law and practice as well as advocacy for a dedicated Admiralty Registry, to name a few. Also, you have left us with a better organisation with stronger governance and a vision and strategy suited to the time.”
In his remarks, the outgoing President Mr. Chidi Ilogu SAN, highlighted sacrifices of members in recent years, he praised the work of the Nigerian Admiralty Law and Procedure Reform Committee and the Executive Committee which culminated in the recommendations which have been made to both the Federal High Court and the National Assembly. He called for support for the incoming executive while wishing them great success.
Others elected as members of the Executive Committee are Mr. Mike Igbokwe SAN (1st Vice President), Mr. Olumide Sofowora SAN (2nd Vice President), Mr. Emeka Akabogu (Honorary Secretary), Mrs. Nneka Obianyor (Assistant Secretary), Mrs. Oritsematosan Edodo-Emore (Treasurer), Mrs. Oluseyi Adejuyigbe (Financial Secretary) and Mr. Adedoyin Afun (Publicity Secretary).
The Nigerian Maritime Law Association is the premier body of maritime lawyers in Nigeria, and also has a membership of industry organisations, government agencies and law firms.