• Sun. Jul 21st, 2024

Supreme Court Affirms FG’s Exclusive Control of Inland Waterways

boat with people in water

The Supreme Court has affirmed that the control of activities on the nation’s inland waterways, including levying and licensing operators in the sector, belongs exclusively to the Federal Government, according to channelstv.com.

In a Judgement written by Justice John Okoro and read by Justice Emmanuel Agim, the apex court held that it was unlawful and illegal for states to seek to control the sector and impose levies on businesses operating in the nation’s inland waterways.

It held that existing laws give exclusive control of activities in the nation’s inland waterways to the Federal Government through its agencies – the National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, and the Nigerian Maritime Standard and Safety Agency, NMSSA, – and no other tier of government.

Respondents to the appeal were the Lagos State Waterways, the state’s Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development, the state’s Attorney-General, the Governor of Lagos State, the Incorporated Trustees of Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transportation of Nigeria, ATBOWTN, and the Incorporated Trustees of Dredgers Association of Nigeria, DAN.

The appeal filed in 2018 was prosecuted for the appellants by a team of lawyers led by Lateef Fagbemi, now the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice.

The Supreme Court agreed with Fagbemi’s argument that NIWA is the only agency saddled with the responsibility to levy, impose, and charge rates of utilization along the declared waters of the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority.

It added that NIWA is the rightful and legal agency of the Federal Government with the powers to exclusively manage, direct and control all activities on the navigable waters and its right of way throughout the country for inland navigation, pursuant to Sections 8 and 9 of NIWA Act.

The court equally agreed with Fagbemi that the activities of the Lagos government and its agencies constitute a flagrant usurpation and an illegal encroachment on the statutory functions of NIWA because the waterways of Lagos State, among others in Nigeria, fall under the Exclusive Legislative List set out in Part 1 of the Second Schedule to the 1999 Constitution.

It held that it is only the Federal Government, through the National Assembly, that can validly legislate on Maritime Shipping and Navigation, adding that the power to legislate on any subject in the Exclusive Legislative List does not lie with the Lagos State Government.

The appellants had also argued that the activities of the Lagos State Waterways Authority, LASWA, created by the Lagos Government, through the enactment of LASWA Law No. 14 of 2008 (LASWA 2008) by the state’s House of Assembly, to regulate, develop and manage all aspects of the waterways in Lagos State is unconstitutional.

The court noted that existing laws do not favour the Lagos government’s arguments on resource control but that political stakeholders, including the Legislature, could work on ways to amend the law to address the concern raised by Lagos and others on the issue.The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment delivered on March 28, 2014, by Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Lagos and reversed the July 18, 2017, judgment of the Court of Appeal (Lagos division), which set aside the Federal High Court judgment.