BY INNOCENT ANABA & ABDULWAHAB ABDULAH
Lagos—A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, yesterday, held that there was no existing law in Lagos State, permitting the collection of toll on the newly constructed Lekki-Ikoyi Suspension Bridge in Lagos.
Trial judge, Justice Saliu Saidu, in his judgment in the suit by rights activist and lawyer, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, said that the Lagos State Government could only make a law to that effect, before it could collect tolling on the Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge.
It will be recalled that the state government started tolling the bridge on May 29, 2013 and charges N300 per car.
LASG to appeal judgment
Meantime, the state government, yesterday, said it would appeal the judgment and sought for it to be stayed, arguing that no declarations were made by the court.
At a briefing by the State Attorney-General, AG, and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ade Ipaye, the government said the court did not specifically address many questions raised by the applicant, or did it grant any of the declarations sought.
Adegboruwa in the suit filed on November 26, 2012 against the Lagos State Government, joined the Attorney General of the Federation, the National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA and Attorney General of Lagos State, Mr Adeola Ipaye as respondents and had sought a declaration that the LASG had no authority to erect a bridge, on the Lagos Lagoon, which is categorized by law as federal navigable waterways.
He had also prayed the court to determine whether there existed any law in Nigeria, authorising the collection of such tolls, tax or fee, from citizens and further prayed the court to declare that the imposition of such tariff on road users, is an illegal form of taxation and is inconsistent with the 1999 Constitution.
Justice Saidu in the judgment, said it would consider the case on its merit rather than delving into technical issues raised in the addresses of counsels.
The court’s position
The court said: “The further counter affidavit of the third and fourth respondents, and the response of the first and second respondents, have answered most of the questions before this court. The second respondent, NIWA, is the only Federal Agency to form and regulate Navigable Waterway in the country, in line with the NIWA Act.
“The applicant did not contest this issue, but only goes further to raise the issue of collection of toll from the subject matter. The third respondent tried to justify the collection of such toll in paragraph 26 of their counter affidavit, by stating that when the bridge is erected, its proceeds will be applied to the consolidated revenue fund of the LASG.
“The question now is, has the LASG made the appropriate law to enable her collect such toll on the bridge? The third respondent only cited sections 27, 28, and 29 of the Lagos State Public Private Partnership Law 2011 as making provision for the collection of revenue. There is nothing before me to show that the subject matter in this case was as a result of any Public Private Partnership law, to enable the law of 2011 be extended.
“The fact before this court is that the bridge was built with the third respondents money. I agree and uphold the construction of the bridge, and the power of the LASG to generate revenue there from, but the existing laws does not cover it. I therefore, hold that the third respondent can only make a law to that effect, before it can collect tolling on the Lekki-Ikoyi bridge” the court held.
Lagos AG reacts
Meanwhile, Lagos AG, Ipaye in his reaction to the judgment, said the state will appeal against same.
He said: “From what we heard, no consequential orders were made. No declarations were made by the court.
This is an ambiguity that is being exploited already. The court did not make any pronouncement that tolling should be stopped on the bridge.
“The judgment did not specifically address many questions raised by the applicant, neither did it grant any of the declarations sought. However, the pronouncements referred to above are capable of being interpreted as court orders, hence our decision to appeal and seek a stay of execution immediately,” Ipaye added.