Control of Waterways: NIWA reacts to Lagos State Govt’s claim of supremacy

… LASG insists on regulatory rights

The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has reacted to claims by the Lagos State Government (LASG) as the rightful authority in control of the waterways.

In a statement on Wednesday, NIWA faulted the LASG’s claims in sections of the media that it had been granted the right of control of the waterways, when according to it, the court only granted the LASG power to legislate on Intra-State waterways.

The statement reads that: “The attention of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has been drawn to some online news flash and on Daily Newspapers, on July 25th, 2017, which quoted the Lagos State Governor as having said that the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division had set aside the Federal High Court judgment which empowered NIWA to regulate inland waterways including dredging activities and has now empowered Lagos State to regulate same within Lagos State.

“In this connection therefore, NIWA wishes to clarify that the Court of Appeal ONLY granted Lagos State the power to legislate on INTRA-STATE WATERWAYS (i.e. such waterways that originate and end within Lagos State). However, such waterways do not exist in Lagos State because all bodies of waterways in Lagos State are international, tidal, intra-coastal and/or inter-state waterways.”

NIWA continued that following provisions in sections of the 1999 constitution, the Appeal Court had retained the regulatory power in NIWA, with respect to control of international, intra-coastal and inter-state waterways.

As contained in the statement, NIWA noted that: “The Court of Appeal retained the power to regulate international, intra-coastal and inter-state waterways in NIWA being items provided under articles 36 and 64 of the exclusive legislative list of the 1999 constitution (as amended). It should be noted that, NIWA was not the plaintiff in this case at the lower Court as wrongly perceived, but a co-defendant with Lagos State.

“It is also imperative to notify the public that beside this Court of Appeal judgment, there is also another subsisting Court of Appeal decision in G. M Ent. Ltd vs C.R. Investment Ltd. reported in (2011) 14 N.W.L.R. part 1266, page 125, where the Court of Appeal held that NIWA has been conferred with far reaching power and right to control, develop, manage and use all the lands, navigable waterways, inland waterways, river ports etc throughout Nigeria.’’

Following the above declaration, NIWA stated that it is imperative that it is the Federal Government alone that has the powers to regulate activities of the nation’s inland waterways.

It said: “The position therefore remains that it is only the Federal Government that can regulate Inland Waterways, Shipping, Navigation and Dredging activities within the Nigerian Inland Waterways and its Right- of – Ways.”

Concerning operators within the sub-sector, NIWA said “all Maritime and Dredging Operators should disregard the latest claims by the Lagos State Government, remain calm and continue to carry on their legitimate businesses as regulated by NIWA.”

NIWA added that it has “already filed an appeal against the judgment at the Supreme Court pending the formal transmission of the judgment to NIWA and therefore Lagos State has nothing to be excited about since the judgment has not changed the status quo ante.”

However, in another development, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, in a statement, described NIWA’s claim as “misleading”, and maintained that the recent judgment of the Court of Appeal set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court and thereby allowing the Appeal of the State Government on its right to control its inland waterways to the exclusion of the Federal Government.

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