Inland Waterways: NIWA insists “Only FG has control rights”

…Vows to protect operators against any harassment from LASG

The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) on Wednesday at a stakeholders’ meeting in Lagos reiterated its earlier position that it is only the Federal Government that has right of control of the waterways.

The Lagos Area Manager of NIWA, Mr. Mu’azu Sambo, assured the boat operators, and members of the dredgers association of NIWA’s regulatory power of the inland waterways as provided for in sections of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

Speaking on the seven days ultimatum issued the operators on Tuesday by the Lagos State Government, for them to comply with its own regulations or be sanctioned, Sambo said NIWA would not allow the operators to be harassed again.

He said: “We see operators as partners in business, and not as people we should strangulate, therefore, what happened in 2008 to operators in Lagos will never be allowed to happen again.

“NIWA is committed to protecting its mandate and will do everything lawfully, to protect operators in this sector.”

Marine Network reports that in the face of a renewed battle between the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and the Lagos State Government (LASG) over control rights of the inland waterways activities, both parties have issued press statements on their positions.

However, on Tuesday, the LASG at a news briefing, said an Appeal Court judgment granted it rights to control activities of its inland waterways, a position that NIWA has faulted and insisted that the State should list the body of waters that it was granted control over.

NIWA argued that a 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), adding that “such waterways do not exist in Lagos State, because all bodies of water in Lagos State are international, tidal, intra-coastal and/or inter-state waterways.”

NIWA also stated 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).”

Speaking on a collaborative effort by both parties two years ago, Sambo said: “Two years ago, the LASG came to ask that we collaborate, saying they were concerned about the state of the environment, but we knew what they were up to.”

Addressing the concern of multiple taxation, which burdens operators, Sambo said such concerns led to the establishment of a national tax policy to avoid multiplicity of taxation, adding that Lagos should have convened a town-hall meeting if it had a sincere purpose.

Expressing their views separately, the operators said a court ruling had instructed them to make relevant payments to NIWA and not to the State.

Secretary-General of the Dredgers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Richard Ntan, advised that the operators should have a common front for their common interest.

In the same vein, Engr. L.A. Onikoyi urged the operators that they should work together to establish their position, even as they pray against situations capable of disturbing their businesses.

NIWA seized the opportunity to advise the operators on the need to remain safety conscious as Sambo puts it, “We know that the business is expensive to run, but you must be safety conscious, upgrade the standards of your boats and take the issue of safety seriously. Take the wearing of life-jackets seriously as well.”

Members of the Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transporters of Nigeria (ATBOWATON) were well represented.

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