NIMASA: Jamoh Heaves A Sigh Of Relief Over Supreme Court Win -Win Judgment On Control Of Inland Water ways; Says States Will No Longer Levy Investors

 By Stephen Ubanna

 Bashir Jamoh, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, is a happy man. Jamoh’s source of happiness is the Supreme Court, Headed by Justice, Olukayode Ariwooa, ‘’a win –win judgment’ that’’ NIMASA and the National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, under the the close watch of Nurudeen Bola Oyebamiji, should control the activities in the country’s Inland, waters’’.

 Jamoh, the maritime regulatory agency, Chief Executive Officer, CEO, has every reason to be happy. This is because for over 15 years, the Lagos state Water Ways Authority, LASWA, which was said to have been established during the Administration of Babatunde Fashola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and who incidentally was the immediate past minister of Works and Housing under former President Muhammadu Buhari’s Administration under the Law which came into force in 2008.


Going by the implementation of the LASWA Law by the then Fashola- led government, the state was said to have collected billions of naira as revenue from operators in the sector by imposing different levies, taxes   and issuing licenses to operators in the industry for a fee.

The levies, taxes and other fees collected from the Inland Waterways operators appears   to be eating  into the purse of the members of the Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transportation of Nigeria, ATBOWTN,  and  the Dredgers Association of Nigeria, DAN, who could no longer take it.  This may have informed why the aggrieved incorporated Trustees of two Associations had dragged the Lagos state government to a Federal High Court in Lagos, to seek an end to such in 2012.  

The two Associations were said to have headed to the Federal High Court   ‘’to determine  whether it is the  Lagos state Government, and its agency,  LASWA,  or the Federal Government through its  maritime agencies, NIMWA and NIMASA  that are empowered  by Law  to  issue  license    and impose  levy and fines  on Boat Operators operating   in the nation’s inland water Ways.

 In ruling on the initial case, Justice John Tsoho may have dampened the enthusiasms of the Lagos state government as he has stopped state from collecting levies or arrogate to itself the exclusive power to issue licenses to Boat operators within the state Inland waters.

 The trial Judge had ruled that only NIWA and NIMASA, are the Federal government maritime agencies, controlled by the newly created ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, that have the Authority’’ to levy and issue licenses in matters relating to the Commercial activities of ATBOWTN and DAN. This is because they are involved in water tourism, water transportation and dredging within the nation’s inland waterways.  

Akinwunmi  Ambode, immediate past governor of Lagos state have not  found the Federal High Court judgment funny as he headed to the Appeal Court, which had nullified the Federal High Court judgment  of Mach  28, 2014, on July 8, 2017,  on the matter. The argument of the trial Judge  of  the Appeal Court  in nullifying the Federal High Court ‘s ruling was that the inland Waterways within  Lagos state were not captured  by the  NIWA Act’’ , and therefore  are still within  the Legislative competence  of the state Legislative Assembly.The Court was said to have given the Lagos state government the nod to still go ahead  and be  collecting levies,   taxes and fees  on businesses  on waterways  which start and terminates in the state.

The Appeal Court Judgment may have infuriated the Authorities of NIWA, NIMASA and  two others that they headed to the Supreme Court  to challenge the Appeal Court’s ruling on the matter.

  On Friday, January 5, 2024, the apex Court which  had agreed  with Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, now the minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation , AGF, that,   that NIWA  is the only statutory government agency  mandated  with the responsibility of  levying, imposing  and charging rates  of utilization  along the declared  water waters  of NIWA ruled in favour of the agency.

.  The  apex court had clarified   that ‘’the maritime agency  is the only rightful   and legal agency  of the government at the federal level with ‘’the powers ‘’to exclusively  manage , direct and control  all activities  on the navigable waters  and its right of way throughout the country for Inland Navigation, pursuant to section 8 and 9 of NIWA Act.  

 Recall that the AGF  had said   that  the Waterways  with Lagos state , among other inland waterways across the country , that  fall under  the Exclusive Legislative List  as set out  in Part  1, of  the Second Schedule to the 199 Constitution , as amended belong to the Federal government.

Until the Supreme Court came out with its ruling on control of the Inlands water ways within Lagos state, the Authorities of LASWA and NIWA, were said to have set up a Committee to review tariffs, being paid by tariff operators in the state.

Oluwadamilola Emmanuel, General Manager, may have hit the nail on the head when he disclosed  that the Committee  had been put together  by the two agencies from the state and Federal level ,  ‘’to  harmonise  the tariffs  paid  by Boat operators in order  to have one purse  where levies, taxes, and  operating licensing fees  could be paid and the revenue collected  will be  shared by the two agencies of government  He noted that the essence of the discussion between LASWA and NIWA officials is to ensure  that ‘’there is  no more  double taxation of Boat operators an Dredgers.      

An elated Jamoh, had said   in his official  X  handle, that the apex Court judgment  should   bring ‘’to an end  issues of ambiguity  and multiple  taxation,  as states, will no longer  levy investors,  being a responsibility of the government and its agencies at the federal level’’.

He noted that judgment would go a long way to improving the ease od doing business in the nation’s maritime sector and ultimately attract more investment from both local foreign investors.

The NIMASA , Director General, who could not hide his feelings,  had told those that cares to listen,  the Supreme Court ruling   will go a long  to further  facilitate the government’s effort to exploit the potentials of the over 10,000 Kilometers of the country’s inland waterways,

Appealing to the Lagos state government  and other state governments across the country  to embrace the apex Court ruling on  control of Inland waters,  and collaborate with NIWA and NIMASA, his own agency, he noted  that ‘’this is the only way  to better  harness  the country’s  maritime potentials  for the benefit of all Nigerians. 

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