The respondent, a publishing company entered into a contract with the appellant who is in the business of shipping and carriage of goods by sea. The contract was for shipment of a consignment of Bibles. The parties inserted a foreign jurisdiction clause in the Bill of Lading which stated that any dispute between the parties will be governed by the law of the Federal Republic of Germany and further conferred jurisdiction on Hamburg courts in Germany. The respondent alleged that the consignment, after arriving in Nigeria, was damaged by water and consequently filed a suit against the appellant at the Federal High Court, Lagos Division claiming the sum of N9,110,400.00 (Nine Million, One Hundred and Ten Thousand, Four Hundred Naira) in damages. After being served with the originating process, the appellants filed an application challenging the jurisdiction of the court and praying it to stay further proceedings in the matter on the ground that the court with the requisite jurisdiction to hear and determine the dispute is the court in Hamburg, Germany in accordance with the agreement between the parties. After hearing the parties on the application, the court ruled in favour of the respondent and held that it has jurisdiction to hear and determine the suit. The appellant was dissatisfied with the ruling of the court and consequently filed a notice of appeal at the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division.
One of the issues for determination is whether the learned trial judge was right in refusing to grant a stay of further proceedings in the suit in favour of a foreign jurisdiction clause contained in the bill of lading providing that any dispute between the parties should be governed by the law of the Federal Republic of Germany and determined in the Hamburg courts to the exclusion of any other court.
Held: (Unanimously dismissing the appeal)