In a pivotal decision delivered last Friday, the Supreme Court granted the Federal Government full jurisdiction over the nation’s waterways. This ruling includes the authority to impose levies and issue licenses to operators within the sector.
The court’s landmark judgment in the appeal marked SC/CV/17/2018 emphasized that states lack the constitutional right to impose levies on businesses operating in the country’s inland waterways. The appeal was brought forth by the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), the Nigerian Maritime Standard and Safety Agency (NMSSA), the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, and the Minister of Transportation.
In a statement, the court firmly stated that it was unconstitutional for states to assert control over the sector and levy charges. The ruling highlighted NIWA as the sole agency responsible for levying and regulating activities along the nation’s inland waterways, as outlined in Sections 8 and 9 of the constitution.
The decision nullified the attempt by Lagos State and its agencies to exercise control, citing that such actions were an illegal overreach on the statutory duties of NIWA. The court emphasized that matters concerning maritime shipping and navigation fall within the Exclusive Legislative List of the Constitution, solely under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government through the National Assembly.
The judgment restored the Federal High Court’s 2014 ruling and overturned the Court of Appeal’s 2017 decision that set aside the initial judgment. The case originated from a dispute between multiple agencies seeking to determine the rightful authority to license and levy business operators on the nation’s inland Waterways.
This Supreme Court decision solidifies the exclusive authority of the Federal Government over inland waterways, setting a precedent for unified regulation and control within the sector. s.y.t.t.he sector.