Ladies and Gentlemen I am are here to speak briefly about the decision of the Appeal Court delivered on 18th July 2017 that affirmed the right of Lagos State to Control its resources, specifically its inland waterways.
Sometime in 2012 two organizations namely the Incorporated Trustees, Association of Tourist Boat Operators and the Incorporated Trustees, Dredgers Association of Nigeria dragged the Lagos State Government and other parties to the Federal High Court seeking a determination on whether it should pay fees to the Federal Government represented by NIWA or the Lagos State Government represented by LASWA and the Waterfront Ministry. National Inland Waterways Corporation, The Nigerian Maritime Standard and Safety Agency, The Hon Minister of Mines & Steel Development and the Honourable Minister of Transport were all parties to the suit. The Federal High Court ruled amongst other things that NIWA was the rightful authority for these organizations to pay dredging and boat operation fees.
Ladies and Gentlemen I am not going to comment extensively on this matter as the Judgement can speak for itself instead of me seeking to overanalyse it. Suffice it to say the Lagos State Government is very pleased with the outcome of the suit that reaffirms the Constitutional right of a State Government to control its inland waterways.
Indeed the Judge said at page 26
“…No doubt, the common radical denominator is the scope of waterways cutting across international and state boundaries coupled with a declaration by the National Assembly that such waterways are international or interstate respectively. The more obvious area of coverage under the exclusive list are the sea tidal waters and maritime ports declared by the National Assembly to be Federal Ports. But one finds nothing in the Exclusive List dealing with intra-state water ways either in Lagos or any other State in the Federation. The burden is on the Respondents to show that any of the Lagoons, creeks or water ways used for intra-state navigation has run across the parameters of Lagos State into international or interstate boundaries and is so declared in a law promulgated by the National Assembly. 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 Judge went on to set aside the Judgement of the Federal High Court 28th March 2014 is and 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 waterway declared as International or Interstate Waterway under item 5 in the 2nd Schedule to the National Inland Waterways Act”
There have been varied attempts by those who lost out in this judgement to whittle down the effect of the judgement but we are unperturbed and believe strongly that the judgement is very clear and the Constitution is also very clear on this issue. Lagos State says thank you very much to the Court of Appeal for this erudite decision.
In this age of lean resources, this judgement is a breath of fresh air for internally generated revenue and it will also help LASG restore its environment and control the menace of flood amongst other things. HE Governor Akinwunmi Ambode had promised that he would make Lagos work for Lagosians and recovering and harnessing our resources for the benefit of Lagosians is one of the examples of that promise being kept.
We are not out to antagonize or fight any body but we will be uncowed, we will be unbowed and we will be fiercely protective of our God given resources and will never relent in championing the cause of true fiscal federalism in Nigeria.
If it is the wish of NIWA to challenge the right of the LASG to control its resources at the Supreme Court, we say we are ready. However until this judgement is set aside it remains good law and will be fully enforced by the LASG and my office and the relevant government agencies.
Thank you and God bless you all.