The NIWA of today will not fold its arms and allow impunity to reign – Sambo

Lagos Area Office of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) last Wednesday organized an interactive forum for the area’s waterways operators. The maiden forum was put together to address challenges encountered by the area’s waterways operators in carrying out their operations. The NIWA Lagos Area Office Manager, Engineer Muazu Sambo, during his presentation at the forum talked on salient issues surrounding the Authority especially the controversial one of its conflict with the Lagos State Government over the control of inland waterways in the area. 

On the vision, mission, objectives and functions of NIWA

We have a vision and that is to make Nigeria the leader in Inland water transportation development and management in Africa. Our mission is to provide regulatory, economical and co-operational leadership in the nation’s inland waterway system and develop infrastructural facilities for an efficient, inter-modal transportation system in line with global best practices that is safe, seamless and affordable. We have three major objectives which are to improve and develop inland waterways for navigation, to provide an alternative mode of transportation for the evacuation of the economic goods and process, finally, to execute the objectives of the National Transport Policy as they affect inland waterways. Our functions are to provide regulations for inland navigation, ensure the development of the infrastructural facilities for the National Inland Waterways network, connecting the creeks and rivers for the economic centers using the river ports as nodal points for inter-modal exchange.

 

On the NIWA Act

NIWA was established by an act of parliament otherwise known as the national assembly made up of the Senate and the House of Reps. Every state in Nigeria has a representation in the National Assembly. Every state of this country has three senators and at least six members of the House of Representatives representing the interest of that particular state. There are 36 states in Nigeria. Nigeria has agreed to be a federation and so this law was established by that body and only that body can amend the law as we all know. One of the fundamental problems we have in this country is the lack of enforcement of the rule of law. We all travel abroad and when we go there, Nigerians are the best behaved and you wonder why but when we come back to our own country, we are lawless. I really don’t understand why, I still haven’t found an answer to that. Maybe this forum will provide some answers but I want to assure you that no society will progress if that society, especially the elites, does not respect the laws. The NIWA Act is one of the most powerful laws in this country I assure you and that is why we have a lot of resistance from certain quarters. Infact I,Sambo, did not create the law. I am employed to make sure that it is complied with. Now it is interesting to note under Section 13 subsection 1 of the NIWA Act which says that “notwithstanding the provisions of the Land Use Act or any other enactment but subject to the provisions of the Lands (title vesting) Act, the Authority shall have right to all lands within the right-of- way of declared waterways and shall use such lands in the interest of navigation’. Sub-section 2 of section13 says, no person including a state shall (a) obstruct a declared waterway, take sand, gravel or stone from any declared waterway or (b) erect permanent structures within the right of way or divert water from a declared waterway. For example, if you are a state government and you want to build a bridge on a declared waterway, you must come to NIWA for permission. The reason is this, NIWA is not just interested in collecting money from you, we are interested in giving you the correct navigational parameters for your bridge because that road will be a source of transportation if not now, in the future. I have a typical example in Port Harcourt. Those of us here who know Port Harcourt very well, there’s a place called ‘slaughter’, the Woji bridge. Today, people are insulting NIWA in Port Harcourt for allowing that bridge to be constructed so low because it affected the businesses of those people who had vessels that could not go below the bridge. I remember it was a tug of war between the then area manager and the River’s state government and government hid under developmental projects. Today it is the business people in Rivers who had their business near that bridge that are suffering, a lot of the business had to fold up. We respect businesses in NIWA because all of you here are employers of labour. If a state government says it is carrying out a developmental project, we will be the first to encourage them but what we are saying is that water route will be used to move people and goods, maybe with big vessels that will require the right navigational height above the tidal level to the surface of the bridge. That is the technical requirement that NIWA is really interested in. That is why when the Ikoyi bridge was being built and we wrote a letter to Julius Berger asking them to comply with the law and gave them an assessment. First of all we gave them the correct dimensions; we argued and settled for some acceptable dimensions. Going back to sub-section 2, ‘no person including the state shall (c) carry out any of the activities as specified in section 9 of this act without the written consent, approval or permission of the authorities. We encourage people to come to the authorities because we just want people to comply with the law. There are certain provisions that people should comply with not mainly technical. The financial aspect is not too critical to us. It is critical because it is a way of generating tax for the economy but we place more emphasis on the technical requirements.

 

On the judicial pronouncements on the regulatory functions of NIWA

This item of the programme was deliberately included in other to educate our stakeholders and provide enlightenment for all of you. There are people who are ready to give up their lives in defense of the law and if they have the right information, they can stand up to anybody in other to defend their rights. This act is in place and therefore is a law that is currently existing in Nigeria, it has not been amended neither has it been repealed. On the contrary, it has been reinforced by certain judicial pronouncements. The reason why we brought these judicial pronouncements is so we can clear certain controversies that are going round within the industry. Unfortunately, not all of you have time to come to NIWA and seek clarification. We understand how busy you are and therefore a forum like affords us the opportunity of shedding some light. In the package you have, there is a court judgment delivered in December last year, 12/12/12 by no less a person than the chief judge of Nigeria’s federal high court. You all know that the federal high court is represented by every state of the federation and it is a court that has jurisdiction over matters related to government bodies and corporate bodies although it is principally a revenue court. Justice Auta Ibrahim is the chief judge of the federal high court and he delivered this ruling. Unfortunately, people are not familiar with these judgments here at all. Even within NIWA not many people know about it and we are bringing it to you so that you can see that the judiciary has added its voice to the regulatory functions of NIWA leaving nobody in doubt as to who is in charge of the waterways. This is a case that was instituted by late Alhaji Kamoru Adeyemi Alabi vs NIWA and Mr. E.S Balogun. Balogun was representing the National Association of Tourist Board Operators and Water Transporters. The issues for determination were who owns the right to land? Who owns the right to the Inland waterways in Lagos and Nigeria as a whole? And two, whether the plaintiff and defendants have disclosed by credible evidence that they have a valid license or permit to operate on the said waterway or jetty. In this case, the plaintiff was obtaining his license from Lagos state government, he refused to come to NIWA and said he did not recognize NIWA. When NIWA enforced, he decided to go to court. This is the outcome of that case. The judge went on to say, “It is not in dispute that it is the first defendant NIWA that has the power to grant permits/ licenses to foreshore users. The jurisdiction of the foreshore is rested in the Federal Government of Nigeria. This power is granted to NIWA by the provisions of section 35, part 1 of the second schedule to the 1979 constitution under the exclusive legislative list. The subject matter of this case is therefore within the exclusive jurisdiction of the first defendant”. I don’t think we need to say more than this. This is the ruling by no less a person than the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court. If any Nigerian is not satisfied with this judgment, the rule open to that person no matter how highly placed is to appeal. If the person feels aggrieved by that judgment, the option open to him is to appeal the judgment that means going to the court of appeal. As at today, nobody has appealed this judgment. The other issue that has generated a lot of controversy and over which we have not been able to clear a lot of air, although we tried, is the issue of dredging especially as it relates to our sister agency the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development. A lot of people are of the erroneous belief that by virtue of section 76 of the Nigerian Mining and Mineral Act, NIWA is dispossessed of its powers to regulate dredging. On the contrary, there is a judgment of another Federal High Court in respect of a dredging activity that was taking place in Kaduna. It was the federal high court seating in Lokoja that delivered judgment before his lordship Honorable justice I.E Ekwo. The judge in his ruling said and I quote “ I therefore hold that the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act of 2007 has not repealed the National Inland Waterway Authority Act, 2004 or any of its provisions thereof. The only statute repealed by the Nigerian Mineral and Mining Act of 2007 is its predecessor that is, the Minerals and Mining Decree No. 34 of 1999; see section 161 of the Nigerians Minerals and Mining Act 2007. It is my opinion therefore that the two statutes that is NIWA Act 2004 and the NMM Act 2007 are to be read together to understand the intention of the law maker as it relates to the authority of the first and second defendants over the dredging of sand for industrial use on inland waterways”. The first and second defendants in this case are of course are the NIWA Federal ministry of mines and steel development over dredging of sand for industrial use of inland waterways. He further said “My finding after doing that is that since section 761 of the NMM Act 2007 expressly revoke the right and authority of the first defendant by giving exclusive authority to the second defendant, there is therefore a concurrent authority over dredging of sand for industrial use in the navigable waterways between the first and second defendant. In conclusion, I answered the issue raised by the plaintiff in the affirmative and therefore refuse thereto answered the issue raised by the first defendant that is NIWA in the negative and uphold their arguments and their case. I hereby dismiss the case from lacking the merits”. In a nutshell, if a company interested in dredging wishes to dredge and the location is on any of the declared navigable waterways of Nigeria, the person will first come to NIWA and obtain NIWA’s consent then they will go to the Federal ministry of mines and steel development. You must take note that once you have your pedastral, you cannot start any activity until you get a warrant from NIWA. We are very humble people in NIWA, sorry if I have to say that myself but I am only repeating what a lot of our clients have said to our faces and behind our backs. They even find it easier coming to NIWA to do business because we are friendly, we have compassion and we respect the rights of people to do business. We are not in a regulatory business to strangulate people. We must regulate and we do regulate with compassion.

 

On the business case for Nigerian waterways

One of the major things that NIWA has done courtesy of the federal government was to dredge the river Niger channel from Warri through Onitsha, Lokoja, Ida up to Baru. A lot of Nigerians have not realized that that dredging has been carried out successfully but I’m sure our fellow stakeholders here know. The only problem we have is that we have not been able to convince our stakeholders to invest on water because there are challenges particularly security challenges and also the fact that people tend to resist change. You and I know what will require 66 lorry loads to carry, one barge that is a thousand tons will carry that load on water, deliver it safely and with environmentally friendly fuel. That will save our roads from collapse and save lives from the multitude of accidents that take place daily on roads. We are doing everything we can to attract people to use the channel. The Onitsha port has been refurbished and ready for business. It has been commissioned by the president himself. If I’m a business man whose goods are destined for the south Eastern and Northern parts of Nigeria, I should have no business off loading in Lagos. It will help in decongesting and reducing the ultimate cost to the consumer by taking it straight to Onitsha port and from there move them by barges to Northern Nigeria through Lokoja. A lot of background work is going on to attract investors to the channel but a lot of success will not be recorded unless government steps in with certain regulations. It is only in Nigeria that we move petroleum products by road and thereby subjecting lives to danger. In the civilized parts of this world, nobody moves petroleum products by road, you move them by rail or by water; it is cheaper and safer! We want to use this medium to disseminate the message. For those who are interested in water transport and you feel there are impediments, please let us know what those impediments are, ranging from government assistance to any kind of issue that you may want to raise.

 

On the Public-Private Partnership opportunities in NIWA

On the PPP opportunities that are available in NIWA. Particularly, I will speak for the Lagos state office and I will try to be transparent about this. We have jetties in Lagos owned by the authorities. One is at CMS near our office, one is at Apapa, Ijora, Oyingbo, Maroko and the other at Osborne. Osborne is already on lease to a private operator and we are very happy with the company and if we can have more of private companies in Nigeria, we shall go places. A number of people have come to me privately and indicated interest and I have told them that we are going about this thing transparently. We want to give everybody an opportunity to submit a proposal because we want the best. We welcome you to submit proposals. If you wish to visit these jetties for inspections and measurements and photographs, please call on my office. So these jetties we proposed to concession early in the New Year in other to provide modern transportation and infrastructure for people moving by water. One way that NIWA can provide some level of comfort to such people is by making sure that jetties are available and are modern. We are working closely with the Association of Tourist Board Operators and Water transporters of Nigeria, they are partners in progress and we are also giving them all the support that are required in that regard. Our jetties are there and we have a workshop at CMS jetty. That workshop has all the machines you can think of that will be required for maintenance of engines and boats. It is available for lease. If any of you stakeholders is interested, please indicate officially by writing to the Area Manager who will give you an opportunity to conduct you round the workshop. You can submit the proposal which we have signed to the PPP committee in Lokoja but I can assure you that it won’t go beyond the PPP committee in case you are afraid of bureaucratic red tape. The PPP committee will consider it and approve it. We are interested not only in making sure that the workshop is optimally used in other for us to earn some money for government but it will also go a long way in generating employment for Nigerians by the company who will be running the workshop. You have a new NIWA working for you. We have a management that is up and responsible. The management is ready to take us to greater heights with your collaboration. A management that is ready to defend NIWA’s interest and take it to a higher level. A position has already been taken by no less a person than His Excellency, the Governor of Lagos State who made a public statement in the presence of the Honorable Minister of Transport. The NIWA of yesterday would have just folded its arms and walked away but the NIWA of today will not fold its arms because we believe in the rule of law. We will not allow impunity to reign. We shall defend the law with everything we have at our disposal and is legitimate because this is the only way Nigeria can grow. You don’t grow by not respecting laws, no matter bad the law is. A law remains a law that should be complied with until it is amended or repealed. It is not our desire to join issues with His Excellency because of his status but we are only saying all that we need to say. Like they say, in common parlance, a word is enough for the wise.