By Lanre Adesanya
It is clearly a power tussle for supremacy between the Federal Government and the Lagos State Government as the duo battles each other through every possible means. While the Federal Government had for so long refused to accede to the State’s government demand for special status that will cede some percentage of accruals from the major economic hubs domiciled in the state to it, the state government also took a tough stance of contending the perceived deprivation in the court of law.
This development had also pitched the state against the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), the body constitutionally authorized to supervise economic activities along the waterways in Lagos.
Earlier, NIWA had described the Lagos State Government’s stance as a faulty one, citing that the appellate court only gave the government power to legislate on intra-state waterways, which are waterways that originate and end within the state.
The Premium Times reported that the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development (FMMSD) had directed all duly licensed dredgers in Lagos, in defiance to the state government’s seven days ultimatum issued on August 1, to go on with their activities there.
Just recently, a civil society group, Committee for the Protection of Peoples Mandate (CPPM) faulted the call by NIWA on operators in the sector to disregard a 7-day ultimatum issued on them by the Lagos State Government to comply with the relevant laws, describing it as embarrassing, disgraceful and capable of leading to anarchy.
CIPPM insisted that the state government was enabled by the judgment of Appeal Court which upheld its powers to legislate on intra-inland waterways within the State, had called on operators in the sector especially dredgers and boat operators, to comply with relevant laws governing their operations failure of which sanction would apply.
NIWA, on the other hand, issued a statement calling on dredgers and other operators in the sector to ignore the ultimatum issued by the State Government.
The CIPPM Executive Chairman, Mr Nelson Ekujumi while in a press chat had also noted that, the group was disturbed and embarrassed by the attempt of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) to violate the constitution by disregarding and interpreting it to suit itself, an unambiguous judgment of a court which is a law and thereby undermine public peace and safety.
“We condemn in strong terms NIWA’s irresponsible resort to self help, disrespect for the rule of law and instigation of waterways operators to defy an existing law as exemplified in the Court of Appeal judgment of July 18th, 2017 delivered by Justice Hussein Mukhtar who ruled that “It is hereby held that the Lagos State House of Assembly is competent to make laws in respect of the intra inland waterways in Lagos State except the inter-State waterways declared as International or inter State waterways under item 5 in the 2th Schedule to the National Inland Waterways Act”.
“We are quite aware that this matter of control of inland waterways has been a subject of litigation between the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and the Lagos State Government as far back as 2008 and culminated with a judgment delivered by the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on March 28th, 2017, which ruled that “Lagos State had no authority to manage the waterways because such powers fell under the exclusive legislative list”.
“Dissatisfied with the high court judgment, the Lagos State Government conducted itself responsibly by approaching the Court of Appeal to set aside the judgment of the High Court, of which the ruling was delivered on July 18th, 2017.
“Therefore, we are scandalized that instead of focusing on its appeal to the Supreme Court against the Court of Appeal judgment on the matter of which the date of Sept 18th, 2017 has been fixed for hearing, the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has taken the illegal and unconstitutional steps of undermining public order by attempting to usurp the functions of the judiciary which is an illegality.
“In view of the above, we at CPPM are hereby calling on NIWA to refrain forthwith from its assault on the constitution and await the judgment of the Supreme Court on its appeal, failure of which they should be held responsible for any breakdown of law and order on our waterways in Lagos State,” Ekujumi said.