The unending face-off between the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and the Lagos State Government over who has the constitutional power to control the waterways in Lagos State, has assumed a new dimension.
The latest irritation is sequel to moves by Lagos State House of Assembly to challenge the regulatory powers of NIWA and at same time stop activities of dreading companies through the composition of a seven-man committee to investigate and make recommendations on dredging activities in Lagos State, a development NIWA consider as delibrate and subtle attempt to muzzle its mandate and expose it to national ridicule.
In a letter to the state government, the federal government waterways regulatory agency had expressed displeasure over attempt by Lagos State House of Assembly to overreach itself on the extant mining laws of the federal Republic of Nigeria, which mandates NIWA to oversight access through the waterways.
The Managing Director of NIWA, Dr. George Moghalu, in the letter which was copied to the Secretary to the Federal Government and the Minister of Transportation, Boss Mustapha and Rotimi Ameachi respectively, called on the Lagos State Government to caution the leadership of State House of Assembly to stop forth with the current posturing which it said is a clear breach of peaceful resolution between NIWA and Lagos State government over clash of interest on dredging and sundry waterway matters.
Detailing the background to the current impasse, Moghalu stated: “That as a prelude to the full understanding of the matter under reference, you would recall that there was a recent clash between NIWA and Lagos State waterfront and Infrastructure Development during which our staff and indeed companies registered with us were arrested by your staff and arraigned before special offences court, the resolution of that imbroglio I believe is still under consideration.”
Warning, however, that Lagos State House of Assembly attempt may position logs in the ongoing efforts to reach amicable settlement of vexed issues at hand, the NIWA boss drew the attention of the state government to the extant laws on Minerals and Mining act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which clearly states that where there are issues arising from the operations of any licenced operator of the federal government, Section 141 of the act and sections 15, 16 and 17 of the regulation made pursuant to the above act has made copious provision for its resolution.
Moghalu further informed the state government that a ruling of the court of Appeal in Mining cadastral office vs Petroleum and Transport Investment Limited and another (2018) LPEIR 46046 which cleared the air on the vexed issue and further recognizes waterway use permit exclusively within the ambit of NIWA.
“May I in simple words, emphasize that matters within the exclusive list of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are outside the legislative competence of the state government as they are within the competence of the National Assembly, “Moghalu restated, urging the state government to respectfully forward his observation to the leadership of the State House of Assembly.
The issue between NIWA and the Lagos Waterways Authority (LASWA), over who has the constitutional power to control the waterways in Lagos State, has since March 2017, thrown up legal battles between the two respective authorities.
While NIWA argues that it has the sole constitutional mandate to provide regulations on the nation’s waterways and charge fees from operators and protect the stakeholders’ interest, LASWA on the other hand, insists that it also has the legal right to control the natural resources (mineral deposits) in the state.
The issue caused disarray in 2008, when LASWA was accused of charging multiple taxes and fees from members of the Dredgers Association of Nigeria and operators of water transport in Lagos. Stakeholders of the inland waterways had groaned that they were subjected to slavery, because Lagos State government, according to them, strangulated their businesses.
NIWA has challenged that the Lagos State House of Assembly (LSHA) has no right to make a law that created LASWA, based on the provision of the of 1999 Constitution as amended, which says that a State House of Assembly has no right to alter any law enacted by the National Assembly.