•Mines and Steel ministry must obey appeal court’s judgment
THE spat orchestrated by the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development (FMMSD) against the Lagos State government over the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, is tantamount to an abuse of rule of law. The Court of Appeal had set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court, made in favour of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), over the control of mining and inland waterways.
Instead of obeying the judgment of the appeal court, it is strange that FMMSD, the parent ministry of NIWA, is trying to delimit the judgment. For us, and we suppose other law abiding citizens, it is an aberration that the Permanent Secretary in the FMMSD, Mr Mohammed Abass, through a press release, sought to vary the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
Mr Abass, was quoted thus: “It is trite to state that by virtue of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999 as amended), federal laws in respect of administration of mining activities and utility of inland waterways supersede those of states; in the instance as it affects issues on the exclusive legislative list.” Mr Abass went ahead to order dredgers in Lagos State to ignore the legitimate authority in Lagos, while promising to understudy the judgment.
We consider the press release an affront on our country’s judicial system, for, if he feels piqued by the judgment of the court, he can ask NIWA to appeal to the Supreme Court. The FMMSD cannot reap the fruits of the judgment at the high court for three years, and now having lost at the appeal, seek to overrule the appellate court.
That is the intention of Mr Abass when he gave an unsolicited interpretation of the judgment in the following words: “A cursory review of the ruling of the learned justices of the Court of Appeal indicates a clear recognition of the powers and responsibilities of the various arms and organs of government with respect to administration of mining and inland waterways.”
Clearly Lagos State won the case on appeal and is entitled to the fruits of its labour. That is what informed the excitement of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode when at the swearing in of the newly elected chairmen of local councils in Lagos State, he enthused: “I am delighted to inform you that the state government has recorded a major success in its quest to control its resources and enshrine the true spirit of fiscal federalism.”
The governor added: “the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, allowed the appeal of the Lagos State Government and set aside the Federal High Court judgment which gave the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (the authority) to regulate transportation and sand dredging.” Having won on appeal, the Lagos State Government is entitled to control land dredging in the state, and NIWA or any federal agency should not interfere.
The judgment is also a plus to the principles of federalism that Nigerians are agitating for. It is absurd for a federal agency to seek to control dredging in the states, when it does not suffer the environmental challenges associated with such actions. We therefore support the directives of the Lagos Inland Waterways Authority (LIWA), to dredgers to conform to the extant laws of the state.
The well-considered opinion of the Lagos State attorney-general that: “in so far as bodies of water within a state do not obstruct those international routes, those bodies of water within the exclusive preserve of the state are left to their control and that is what that appeal court judgment affirmed”, is in tandem with common sense.