The National Inland Waterways Authority said on Monday it remained the agency in control of the nation’s waterways irrespective of which state of the federation they passed through.
The Lagos Area Manager of NIWA, Mu’azu Sambo, told the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos that a Federal High Court in Lagos had ruled that the Lagos State Government had no jurisdiction over the waterways in the state.
According to Sambo, this is because the waterways in Lagos are federal navigable waterways that have been covered by the act setting up NIWA.
He said: “In essence, the judge ruled that the Lagos State Government has no jurisdiction over the waterways in Lagos.
“The waterways in Lagos are federal navigable waterways and covered by the NIWA act.
“You will recall that sometime in 2008, Lagos State Government set a machinery in motion to repeal the Federal Legislation that is the NIWA act.
“In its place created the Lagos State Water Authority.
“It is that action by the Lagos State Government that has now been declared illegal by the court.
“So, that has now put to rest the seeming controversy over who should have jurisdiction over Nigerians inland waterways whether they are in Lagos or in Port-Harcourt or in the Chad basin.”
In December 2013, NIWA had raised alarm over what it described as the “illegal posturing” of the state over the waterways.
It said that the Lagos State Water Authority had no right to collect taxes from operators of water crafts on the waterways in the state.
In response, the state government insisted that NIWA needed to harmonise its fees with that of the state agency.
Sambo said that the agency had been engaging in quarterly sensitisation campaigns to assure passengers of safety on board water crafts.
He said: “Because of the importance that NIWA attaches to safety on water, the board and management of NIWA has embarked on a sensitisation campaign nationwide, which will go across all the six geopolitical zones.
“The first leg had been kicked off in Niger State where there was a boat incident in 2012 and several lives were lost.
“The second leg of the campaign will take place two weeks from now in Lagos.
“During this effort, 5,000 life jackets will be distributed by NIWA free to boat operators.
“Every boat is supposed to have life jackets on board.
“As a passenger is coming on board, you are giving him or her life jacket to wear.
“And you make sure that it is well secured on the person before the boarding.
“So these life jackets will be distributed to boat operators.
“In Lagos, we are trying to ensure that this is implemented in collaboration with the Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transporters of Nigeria.”
Sambo said the marine department of NIWA usually carried out a survey on operating ferries and issued certificates of worthiness after the exercise.
He explained that all the ferries operating on Nigerian waters were registered annually, adding that the agency also carried out surveys before such ferries were registered.