The respondent a foreign company whose main business is sale of automotive gas oil, entered into an agreement with the appellant, a Nigerian company, whose main business is marketing and sale of automotive gas oil. The agreement was for the respondent to supply a certain quantity of automotive gas oil to the appellant at a designated place offshore Cotonou, Benin Republic.
The respondent case was that in line with the contract terms, it supplied the agreed quantity of the automotive gas oil and spent so much money in the process. However, the appellant’s refusal to take delivery of the consignment occasioned huge losses on it. The Respondent accordingly terminated the said contract and sued the appellant for recovery of damages at the High court of England. It was the respondent’s case that both parties to the contract agreed to submit all disputes and claims arising therefrom to jurisdiction of the England High Court exclusively.
The respondent sued for recovery of damages suffered against the appellant, though the respondent were served with all the court processes, it refused to appear in the High court of England to defend the action and the judgment was eventually delivered in favor of the respondent. There was neither appeal nor an application to set aside the said judgment.
The respondent subsequently applied to the High Court of the Federal Capital territory, Abuja, to register the said judgment. The appellant opposed the application on the ground that among other things, the contract between the parties was an admiralty matter for which the High Court had no jurisdiction.
Admiralty jurisdiction does not arise just because goods were transplanted in a ship. Once a cargo has been discharged from the vessel, carriage by sea, admiralty jurisdiction, ends. In the instant case, from the uncontradicted averments of the respondent in its counter-affidavit, the appellant admitted taking delivery of thirty metric tonnes of the materials agreed to be supplied. Effectively, therefore, the admiralty jurisdiction of the Federal High Court could not be invoked since the goods carried by the ship had been discharged. In effect the cargo or goods were no longer in the vessel…it was just a transaction for the supply of gasoil.
The mere fact that goods are to be conveyed by sea does not cloth the transaction with the garb of an admiralty matter.