Lagos State Government has issued a seven-day ultimatum to boat operators, dredgers and stakeholders in the state’s inland waterways sector to comply with laws, rules and guidelines concerning their operations or face sanctions.
This is contrary to Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority’s (NIWA) interpretation of the Appeal Court judgement on control and regulation of economic activities on the nation’s waterways.
NIWA had last week, stated that the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos, only gave the state government power to legislate on intra-state waterways, which are waterways that originate and end within the state.
But Lagos described the interpretation as totally false, claiming that the judgement gave it power to control the inland waterways within the state.
Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Adeniji Kazeem, on Tuesday, said the state government was pleased with the judgment which he described as clear, unambiguous and a victory for resource control and fiscal federalism in Nigeria.
Kazeem said there had been varied attempts by those who lost out, especially the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), to whittle down the effect of the appellate court judgment.
He said in as much as the state government was not out to antagonise or fight anybody, it would, however, be “uncowed, unbowed and fiercely protect the God-given resources within the state and never relent in championing the cause of true federalism in the country.”
Reacting to claims by NIWA that the judgment did not favour the state government, Kazeem said the quest by the federal agency to keep on controlling the resources of the state from Abuja despite the judgment was totally absurd and cannot stand when viewed from moral, legal and economic grounds.
He observed that the same NIWA that claimed on the one hand that the judgment did not favour the state government, had also indicated interest to appeal, and queried the intention of the agency in seeking to take the resources of the state.
“Looking at the import of these laws which you can find in the constitution is that the Federal Government controls maritime and international navigation which is to clear the high seas for international carriers to be able to move freely,” Kazeem said.
“In so far as bodies of water within a state do not obstruct those international routes, those bodies of water within the exclusive preserve of the state are left to their control and that is what that Appeal Court judgment affirmed.
“It said clearly that the Lagos State House of Assembly has powers to legislate on its intra-inland waterways and the LASWA Law is very clear about its powers and authority to control boat operation.
“You can imagine that a federal government agency in Abuja intend to control how boat operators operate here. This is just the same thing as saying that the federal government agency should control the buses that ply your road. If you say you have a right to control land transportation, should you not have right to control water transportation?
“Secondly, if you have a coastline that is very important to you and then some people are eroding that coastline by unregulated dredging cutting into the coastline, causing flooding, causing environmental nuisance and then you say that an agency that is situated in Abuja should control that, that is absurd. So, on a moral, on a legal, on an economic standpoint, it is not right.
“If it is the wish of NIWA to challenge the right of LASG to control its resources at the Supreme Court, we say we are ready. However, until this judgment is set aside, it remains good law and will be fully enforced by the LASG and my office and the relevant government agencies”.