Waterways Legal Battle: Falana Faults Fed Govt, Throws Weight Behind Lagos

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Civil society activist and human right lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN)

 

A civil society activist and human right lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) has urged the Federal Government to respect the decision of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, which upheld the constitutional right of the government of Lagos State to control and regulate activities on inland waterways.

It could be recalled that the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Mr. Mohammed Abass, had directed some sand dredgers and boat operators licensed by the Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), to disregard the ultimatum issued to them by Lagos State Government to regularise their operations.

Mr Abbass is said to have issued this directive despite the judgement of the Court Appeal, which Lagos claimed accorded her authority to give such ultimatum to the operators.

But Falana, in a statement issued yesterday in Lagos, contended that the Federal Government lacks the power to authorise dredgers to mine any resources in the intra-inland waterways in Lagos State.

He counselled the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) and Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi to call Abass to order.

The statement reads: “ On July 18, 2017, the Lagos Judicial Division of the Court of Appeal delivered an epochal judgment in the case of Lagos State Waterways Authority & Ors. v. The Incorporated Trustees of Association of Tourist Boat Operators & Water Transportation in Nigeria  (Unreported Suit No: CA/L/886/2014). In the leading judgment of the Court, the Honourable Justice Hussein Mukhtar held inter alia:

”Item 64 is couched in no narrower scope as it deals with water from such sources declared by the National Assembly to be sources affecting more than one State. The inland waterways within Lagos State are not and cannot by any stretch of interpretation be covered by any item on the Exclusive Legislative List under Part 1 to the Second Schedule of the Constitution and I so hold…

”The glaring absence of the Lagos State intra-waterways in the Exclusive Legislative List under Part 1 as well as the Concurrent Legislative List under Part 2 of the Second Schedule to the Constitution means that it is automatically a residuary item that falls within the legislative competence of the Lagos State House of Assembly.”

 ”It is indubitably clear from the above judgment that the Court of Appeal has rightly upheld the constitutional right of the Lagos State House of Assembly to make laws in respect of the intra-inland waterways in Lagos State. Accordingly, the Federal Government lacks the power to authorise dredgers to mine any resources in the intra-inland waterways in Lagos State.

”But in a demonstration of brazen impunity, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Mr. Mohammed Abass, has directed dredgers who were illegally licenced by the Federal Government to disregard the clear and unambiguous judgment of the Court of Appeal and continue to mine resources in the intra-inland waterways in Lagos State.

"While commending the Court of Appeal for the historic judgement, we urge the Lagos State Government to continue to challenge the constitutional validity of all Decrees enacted by the defunct military junta which have turned Nigeria into unitary state.

“Howerver, in the light of the constitutional duty imposed on the Buhari Administration to operate under the rule of law, we urge the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN, and the Honourable Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, to call Mr. Mohammed Abass to order without any further delay".

PIX: Civil society activist and human right lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN)