FREEPRESS – The legal tango over the rightful owner of the expansive inland waterways in Lekki area of Lagos state has shifted to the Supreme Court. This followed the appellate court ruling that both levels of government claimed victory. Not only that, the Federal Government and the Lagos state government tussles over the control of the multimillion waterway. Investors who possess valid licenses to expand and develop the waterways felt cheated also approach the court.
One of such litigation was on 6th June, 2017 brought before Justice M.S Hassan of the Federal court, Ikoyi In suit FHC/L/CS/655/2017, where the honorable judge ordered that parties involved should maintain “Status quo pending the determination of the application”. The case was adjourned till 25th of September, 2017. The plaintiffs are two investors who had been licensed by National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA since 2003. Megba Toluwaleke Nig. Company and Lucky Megba Ojonla Nig. Ltd. had dragged NIWA, Lagos state government, Oba Saheed Ademola Elegushi, Eleguishi Property Investment, Attorney General of Lagos and Van Oord Dredging Contractors to court over theirs right to operate the waterways for specific number of years.
In a move termed as “comptempt of court” construction has begun on the disputed land as Elegushi family members under the trade name of Czar Engineering limited designed and launched an Imperial International Business City on the disputed waterways. Those who attended the launching of the city wondered why corporate organizations partnering the Elegushi could not ascertain the legal status of the land before signing the agreement and not only that moved into the site.
The project according to findings is a joint venture between Channeldrill Resources Limited and some self-acclaimed elders of Elegushi family members under the name of Czar Engineering Limited with a trade office at 22, Dr Omon Ebhomenye street, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos. The project also attracts other organizations such as Maritime Projects, Royal HaskoningDHV UK (marine engineer & reclamation consultants), Mott Macdonald (infrastructure engineer consultant), Gensler (master town planner), Kedari capital (financiers) and none of them could interpret the many court cases against the waterways as a factor.
The project, according to its promoters, was conceived after the Lagos State Government gave approval for the expansion of Ikate Kingdom by 200 hectares of land to Lekki Phase 1, through dredging of the lagoon.
The Managing Director of Channeldrill Resources Limited, Mr. Femi Akioye, told our correspondent he is not aware of any litigation against the said project. Akioye who maintains that the transportation network of the city would promote efficiency within Lagos added that all approval to the project has been received and that the city will be delivered in 2022 as work has commenced in earnest.
Investigations reveal that continuous work on the site is generating rumbles and tension is brewing because part of the said area is been reclaimed and exhibited as Periwinkle Estate. The developers have also appointed the service of marketers such as Assist2sell and many other agents to market parcels of reclaimed lagoon which is obviously under litigation.
The violence way at which the agents of the Lagos State government moved to hijack the waterways in 2008 lend credence to the fear of many Lagosians including investors who had sought the approval of NIWA to develop the waterways. Under Babatunde Raji Fashola, A lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, as governor of the state Lagos state officials suddenly went after inland waterways operators following the creation of Lagos State Waterways Authority, LASWA, and the repeal of the law establishing the Federal Government body (National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA) charged with the responsibility of regulating waterways in the country. The Incorporated Associations of Dredgers and Water Transport Operators had gone to the Federal High Court to challenge the state government on the LASWA creation and the court ruled in favour of NIWA/NIMASA (Nigerian Maritime Administration and Security Agency) and the operators. The court said then that operators should relate with NIWA since the 1999 Constitution places the control of the inland waterways on the exclusive list to be controlled by the Federal Government.
After that judgement, Lagos State stopped interfering in the regulation and control of the waterways in the state until it approached the Appeal Court recently. The Appeal Court delivered judgment last July but the twist to the tussle is that the state government and NIWA are interpreting the ruling differently.
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, during a Town Hall meeting in Badore Ferry Terminal, Ajah, warned boat operators and dredgers operating in the state to comply with the LASWA law or have their activities banned. Speaking at a joint media briefing by the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde; the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Adeniji Kazeem; the Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development, Engr. Ade Akinsanya; the Managing Director of LASWA, Ms Abisola Kamson, and Chief Executive Officer of Lagos State Ferry Services, Hon Paul Kalejaye, Kazeem, backed the position of Ambode when they declared readiness to aggressively enforce the relevant laws for the regulation of Lagos waterfront infrastructure development and all connected purposes.
The Lagos Area Manager of NIWA, Muazu Sambo, counter Ambode’s position stressing that “when the case went to court, NIWA, NIMASA and other stakeholders filed their cases and they were slated for hearing on September 11, 2017 only for them to be informed that they should come for judgment on July 18. According to him, NIWA has gone to the Supreme Court based on the advice of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, to clarify the Appeal Court verdict.
The agency’s General Manager, Public Relations, Mr. Fadile, in a statement, said, “Lagos State House of Assembly, in line with the Court of Appeal judgment delivered on July 18, 2017, does not have the power to make laws in respect of the following International and inter-state waterways in Lagos: Intra-coastal route from Badagry, along the Badagry Creek to Lagos through Lagos Lagoon to Epe, Lekki Lagoon to Iwopin, along Omu Creek, Talifa Kivei to Atijere, Akata, Aboto, Oluwa River to Okitipupa and onto Gbekebo, Arogbo, Ofunama, Benin Creek to Warri. “The same also applies to the canal running from Araromi through Aiyetoro, Imelumo to Benin River and from Aiyetoro through Mahin Lagoon to Igbokoda. Item 5, 2nd Schedule, Section 10 of the National Inland Waterways Authority Act. Cap N.47, LFN 2004.” He quoted Justice Hussein Mukhtar, who read the Appeal Court judgement, as saying: “The required declaration for inland waterways under the exclusive legislative list is made under Section 10 of the National Inland Waterways Act, which includes rivers and intra-coastal waterways specified in the Second Schedule to the National Inland Waterways Act, which have been declared as Federal navigable waterways. “Section 11 thereof provides that all navigable waterways, inland waterways, river-ports and internal waters of Nigeria, excluding all direct approaches to the ports listed in the Third Schedule to this Act and all the other waters declared to be approaches to ports under or pursuant to the Nigerian Ports Authority Act, up to 250 metres beyond the upstream edge of the quay of such ports, shall be under the exclusive management, direction and control of the Authority. “Item 5 in the Second Schedule to the National Inland Waterways Act is the relevant provision for the navigable route that falls under the exclusive legislative list and it provides as highlighted above.
Despite all these legal crises against the decision by the state government, the Lagos State Task Force provided security to Elegushi Royal Family to forceful evicts the residents of the riverine communities. The demolition which was carried out at the wake of dawn March 24th 2017 by Lagos State Joint Task Force at Ebute Itedo community and her neighboring village Otodogbame in Lekki, where thousands of Lagosians were rendered homeless.