THE National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) a few months ago had a face -off with the Lagos State Government over the right of way on the nation’s coastal waters in Lagos. In this interview with Godwin Oritse, NIWA’s Managing Director, Hajia Inna Ciroma, told Sweetcrude that the Authority is looking for a way round the issue with the State Government. Excerpts:
What has NIWA done to checkmate the excesses of the Lagos State Government for encroaching on its right of way on the coastal waters?
The issue is not that of checkmating anybody, it is a question of understanding what the NIWA Act says and what is expected of NIWA and what is also expected of any State Government.
So the NIWA Act is very clear, we have our own jurisdiction in any state of the Federation, all inland waters belong to the Federal Government.
This is in the concurrent list of the constitution and it is under the legislation of the Federal Government.
So any state government that says that inland waters belong to the state government is not saying the truth, this is being sorted out.
What Lagos Government is claiming is that they are working for the people saying that NIWA cannot stop them, is also something we are looking into.
NIWA is also working for the people of Nigeria at all levels of governance, whether at Federal, State or Local levels, we are also serving the people of Nigeria.
There should not be any reason to have issue with any State Government since we have our Act.
Don’t you think that the Lagos State Government seems to be usurping NIWA’s powers?
What the Lagos State Government did was that they enacted a law and said that they will not respect NIWA Act because NIWA Act was set up by a Military Decree.
They should know that whether Decree or Act, a law is a law, so the NIWA decree is law, it must be respected.
The Nigerian constitution came into being through a decree, Lagos State was created by a decree, so nobody can come and say that because it is a military decree the law cannot be respected, that is what we are saying.
Will NIWA take any legal action against Lagos State Government?
It has not come to that, but that is what courts are for, courts are for adjudications to look at issues and take a decision but if it gets to that, then we will have no choice than to go to the court.
The Anambra State Government has raised an alarm over the dredging exercise going on right under the River Niger bridge, how is NIWA going to handle this?
NIWA will not purposely go and issue license to anybody to go and dredge from under any bridge because that is dangerous.
You cannot go and start eroding the bridge and the bridge belongs to Federal Ministry of Works and not NIWA.
Is it not NIWA’s duty to issue licenses for people to dredge?
Yes it is NIWA’s duty to issue licenses for people to dredge, but not issue license for people to go and undermine any bridge because we had similar application from people in Lagos State and we did investigate.
There is certain area of distance you must give; you cannot dredge at the pillars of any bridge.
What will NIWA do in the case of River Niger?
We will investigate and if we find out that it is true, then we will take action and if need be, we will withdraw whatever licenses that have been issued because we will not want to endanger the lives of people.