Court gavel.

By Akin Kuponiyi

An Abuja based businessman, Akpokiniovo Odeme Ufuoma whose two imported vehicles were not delivered to him by a shipping company, Grimaldi Agency Nigeria Limited has slammed N58,091,888 suit on the company.

Joined as second defendant in the breach of contract suit is an Italian registered company, Grimaldi Deep sea S. p. a.

The case of the Plaintiff was that he purchased a MY 2016 Lexus LX 570, , VIN: JTJHY7AX3G4189372 and MY 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser VIN: JTMCY7AJAG4047427 (“THE Vehicles”) in the United States of America and sought to ship the Vehicle to his base in Nigeria.

The Plaintiff, through his shippers,  Messrs International Freight Corporation of 77, Evergreen Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, United State of America, engaged the services of the Grimald Deep Sea S.p.a to ship the Vehicles from the United State of America to Tin Can Island, Lagos, Nigeria and the required fees were paid by for the shipment of the Vehicles.

Thereafter, the vehicles were put in a 40 feet Container with number ACLU950773 AND delivered to the Defendants, for carriage on board the vessel M/V “Grande Gabon” from Virginia Beach, New York to Tin can Island, Lagos and the Shipping company issued its clean Bill of Lading showing that the contents were shipped in apparent good condition and order.

The Bill of Lading was sent to the Plaintiff and was to be notified by the defendant when the vehicles arrive at Lagos – Tin Can Island port.

Upon notification of the arrival of the vessel M/V “Grande Gabon” at Lagos Tin Can island port on 11th January, 2018, he made all the necessary arrangement and payments to the Nigeria Customs Services for the prompt clearance of the container.

However, upon inspection at the point of delivery, whilst the container was still in the custody and possession of the defendants, the said container was found empty with no explanation proffered by the defendants for the whereabouts of the vehicles which were packed therein and shipped in “apparent good order and condition”.

The plaintiff averred that he was owed a duty of care by the defendants to take reasonable care of the consignment, to avoid its loss and to deliver them to him in good order and condition and that in breach of the duty of care, the defendants failed to deliver the consignment to him.

As a result of the defendants’ breach of their duty of care by failing to take reasonable care to deliver the plaintiff’s consignment, he has suffered loss and damage.

In a particulars of loss, the plaintiff stated thus: USD $56,208.00 being the value of the two (2) motor vehicles pursuant to their valuation by the Nigeria Customs Service; USD $56,02400 being the amount invoiced by the defendants for the freight of the consignment and N7,688,368.00 being the amount paid by the plaintiff as import duties to the Nigeria Customs Services for the consignment.

Upon the defendants not being able to account for the whereabouts of the consignment in the container, he instructed his solicitors, Messrs. Abraham & Co., who addressed a formal Notice of Loss dated 23rd February, 2018 to the defendants.

In response to the plaintiff’s Solicitor’s Notice of Loss, the defendant by letter of 22nd May, 2018, written “without prejudice” did not offer any explanation for the failure to deliver the plaintiff’s vehicles, but rather claimed that the container was “received and discharged from the vessel in the same condition (empty) it was delivered to the terminal.”

Contrary to the assertion of the defendant, the consignment was delivered by the shippers to the defendants who issued a “clean” bill of lading properly describing the goods, showing their identification marks, description and quantity and declaration that the said consignment was shipped in apparent good order and condition.

The plaintiff, following the disclaimer by the defendant, instructed his solicitor to further issue and serve on the defendant, a final demand notice dated 4th June, 2018, for the delivery of his consignment or payment of compensation for its non-delivery.

The Plaintiff claims jointly and severally against the defendants for the sum of $112,222 and N7,688,368 respectively and a declaration that the defendants were in breach of their duty of care to him for failure to deliver the plaintiff’s motor vehicles.

The plaintiff wanted an interest on the amount in the above at the rate of 10% per annum from 11th January, 2018 until the commencement of the suit and thereafter at the same rate until judgment in the suit and upon liquidation of the judgment sum by the defendants, as well as general damages in the sum of N10,000,000.00.