The legal tussle over control and regulation of economic activities on the country's inland waterways between the Lagos State Government (LASG) and National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) took another dimension as a civil society group, Committee for the Protection of Peoples Mandate (CPPM) on Monday faulted the call (NIWA) on operators in the sector to disregard a 7-day ultimatum issued on them by the state to comply with the relevant laws, describing it as embarrassing, disgraceful and capable of leading to anarchy.
The State Government, following the judgment of Appeal Court which it claimed 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.
But in a press statement signed by CIPPM Executive Chairman, Mr Nelson Ekujumi, the group said they were disturbed and embarrassed by the attempt of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) to violate the constitution by disregarding and interpreting 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.