July 2, 2021

Anambra sand miners protest NIWA’s sealing of sandpits

Anambra sand miners protest NIWA’s sealing of sandpits

By Chimaobi Nwaiwu, NNEWI

Lawyers to the Incorporated Trustees of Sand Miners Association of Anambra State, are protesting the alleged sealing of sandpits of its members and some of their members who are tenants of another litigant against National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, in Onitsha.

Both the Trustees and Lake Petroleum Limited Onitsha had dragged NIWA to Federal High Court, Awka, protesting alleged collection of non-statutory levies.

They also wanted to know if NIWA, under the Land Use Act, can take land rightfully belonging to individual members of the society.

Meanwhile, the Federal Court High Awka, Anambra State, presided over by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, has reserved judgment for July, 15 in the case between Lake Petroleum Limited, Onitsha and NIWA.

The former is the Plaintiff in the matter.

Addressing newsmen after hearing the substantive suit between the two parties, counsel to Lake Petroleum Limited, Mr. Gerald Ezeuko(SAN), through one of his lawyers, Mr. Arinze Charles Arinze, who spoke for his principal, contended that that under the Land Use Act, every land belongs to the state government, which issues Certificate of Occupancy, C of O, to individuals or groups to occupy and use the lands, and not NIWA.

He said: “Our position is that NIWA does not have that right, because under the Land Use Act, every land belongs to the State government, which issues Certificate of Occupancy, (C of O) to individuals or groups to occupy and use the lands.

“What NIWA, has under the NIWA Act, is Right of Way, which does not translate to right of ownership.

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“NIWA does not have propriety interest over peoples land, but rather Right of Way, that is our position.

“We insist that NIWA officials cannot wake up and begin to tax arbitrarily individuals who operate business within the waterways, because NIWA, is a creation of status and they must operate within the confines and ambits creating them.

“The G.E Ezeuko Chambers, also counsel to the Lake Petroleum Limited Onitsha, is therefore protesting that NIWA, sealing the Sand pits of some members of Sand Miners Association, who are tenants of Lake Petroleum Limited Onitsha.

“G.E Ezeulo Chambers, in March this year filed and won a suit for the sand miners, but NIWA went to Court of Appeal to challenge the judgment of the lower court.

“They equally filed application for stay of execution of the judgment of the lower court pending the decision of the Court of Appeal.

“We are wondering why NIWA is still bent on collecting arbitrary levies from sand miners by sealing their sand pits at Lake Petroleum Limited property, when judgment has not  been given in favour of NIWA.

“And the sand pits judgment has been given against NIWA and they went to Court of Appeal to challenge it.

“Sand miners doing business within the waterways dragged NIWA to court and judgment was delivered in favour of them in March this year against NIWA, because the government agency went beyond collecting their rightful statutory levies.

“Dissatisfied with the judgment of the lower court, NIWA filed application for Stay of the Execution of judgment of the Federal High Court, Awka, after it has gone to Court of Appeal.

“We expected NIWA to wait for the courts to give their judgments in their favour before sealing off the sand pits and Lake Petroleum property.

“NIWA cannot be asking the court to grant its application for Stay of Execution of judgment against them and at the same time violating an existing judgment.

“It is an affront on the powers of the court and contemptuous.”

Effort to get Area Manager of NIWA Onitsha to speak on the sealing of the sand pits failed as a new Area Manager is said to have taken over from the former and, therefore, cannot be reached yet.

Vanguard News Nigeria