Lagos, NIWA in war of words over levies

Lagos State government has advised properties owners along the shorelines in Ikoyi, Victoria Island and other parts of the state against dealing with the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) on taxes, levies or tariff.
The state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Ade Ipaye, said NIWA does not have constitutional authority or statutory power to assess properties in Lagos for payment of any tax, levy, fee or tariff.
In a statement, Ipaye clarified that under the constitution, the power to assess privately owned houses or tenements for rates is vested in local government authorities by virtue of the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The Local Government Councils in Lagos State have neither delegated this power to NIWA nor appointed NIWA to act for them in this regard,” he averred.
The state government therefore, advised property owners who have been served with such demand notices by NIWA to forward same to the office of the Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice so that the government could take necessary steps to protect affected properties.
The statement titled “Lagos State government regularisation and regulation of properties in Lagos State by National Inland Waterways Authority” was issued in reaction to various petitions from concerned property owners in the Ikoyi and Victoria Island areas of the state who were served with demand notices for payments in respect of NIWA’s supposed “Right of Way” and “regularisation exercise”.
The property owners are also being asked to pay various sums of money as processing fee, inspection fee, monitoring fee, shore utilisation fee, and others and to grant NIWA’s field officers access to their private properties for purposes of measuring the shoreline for accurate assessment of their NIWA tariff.
The government said it has carefully reviewed the applicable legislation setting up NIWA “and it is our considered view that its functions do not extend to the assessment, regulation or taxation of properties that are not obstructing any declared waterways.”
Ipaye argued that under the Land Use Act, all land comprised in the territory of each state is vested solely in the state governor.
“The Lands (Title Vesting) Decree, which purported to vest title of all land within the 100 metres limit of the 1967 shoreline and all land reclaimed near the lagoon, sea or ocean in the Federal Government has been invalidated by a court of competent jurisdiction since 2000. In effect, that obnoxious Act has ceased to be part of Nigerian Law,” he added.
But Lagos Area Manager of NIWA, Mohammed Sambo, while reacting to the position of the Lagos State Government, asked affected property owners to disregard Ipaye’s statement.
He said, “Section 13 makes the Land Use Act subject to NIWA Act. That law is subservient to the NIWA Act.
“There are certain provisions in the NIWA Act that give the authority the power to collect levies and charges from property owners whose properties bother the waterways.
“Also, we all know that the NIWA Act has been validly enacted by the National Assembly, drawing it’s power from the constitution.”
Sambo further described the Lagos Attorney General’s statement as “bunkum”.

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