By Henry Ojelu
Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, has said that the state House of Assembly is constitutionally empowered to investigate dredging activities within its intra-state waterways.
Onigbanjo stated this in response to a petition by the National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA to his office raising concerns over the activities of a fact-finding seven-man committee set up by the Lagos State House of Assembly to investigate and make recommendations on dredging activities within the intra-state waterways.
In a letter dated May 28, 2020, and addressed to the Managing Director of NIWA, Onigbanjo insisted that LASHA can legislate on intra-state waterways, investigate and make a recommendation in respect of same.
ALSO READ: Challenges of managing Lagos Waterways
He also pointed out that a subsisting judgment of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division delivered on July 18, 2017, in Appeal No. CA/L/886/2014 had rested the matter when in the lead judgment, Justice Mukhar JCA stated thus;
“All other inland waterways within Lagos State are within the legislative competence of the Lagos State House of Assembly and any revenue accruable therefrom is payable to the Lagos State Waterways Authority… the Lagos State of House of Assembly is competent to make laws in respect of the Intra-Inland waterways in Lagos State…”
Part of the AG’s letter to NIWA reads; “The Court noted in arriving at its decision that nothing in the combined reading of Items 29, 36 and 64 of the Exclusive Legislative List by any form of interpretation alludes to “intra-state waterways” neither is there an item of such in the Concurrent Legislative list which makes it a residual matter which the State can legislate upon.
Flowing from the judgment of the Court of Appeal, I am of the strong opinion that the Lagos State House of Assembly can legislate on intrastate waterways and can investigate and make recommendations in respect at same.
“The jurisdiction of your office is limited by the provisions of the Constitution to international and interstate waterways.
‘Furthermore, note that the power conferred under the Nigerian Mineral and Mining Act to issue/grant; dredging license/permits can only be limited to international and Interstate Waterways.
“It has also not escaped our attention that the prescribed authority which can grant or issue the dredging permits is the Minister responsible for SoiId Mineral Development. Please see Section 76 of the Nigerian Mineral and Mining Act 2007.
“While the State is not opposed to the peaceful resolution of any dispute that may be between your organisation and any agency of Lagos State, this can only be without prejudice to the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and as judicially interpreted.
“We, therefore, advise that the Lagos State House of Assembly is exercising its Constitutional powers, which NIWA, with all due respect cannot interfere with.”