‘’As a public servant, my job is to defend Nigerian constitution and nobody can intimidate me’’
Enginner Mauzu Sambo, is the General Manager, Lagos Zone of the National Inland Waterways Authority, (NIWA). In this interview with Anozie Egole, he spoke extensively about the dispute between NIWA and LASWA. He also spoke on other issues, such as the ultimatum given to sand dredgers at Ado road in Lagos.
‘’What we have identified as a major cause of the road mishap is what we called loggers, people who move logs by water’’
What are the jurisdictions of NIWA?
The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) is a specialised agency of the government that was created in 1997 via a military decree. Prior to the establishment of NIWA, it used to be inland waterways department of the Federal Ministry of Transport; right from the colonial time. Now, there are four modes of transportation all over the world, there is land, air,rail road and waters.
Of all the four modes of transportation, water is the lead developed in Nigeria but because the government was interested in developing it that was why the department of Inland Water Transportation (IWT) metamorphosed into a full agency in other to drive the process of transforming water ways as an alternative means of transportation. Nigeria has over 2000 kilometres of navigable waterways and over 8,000 kilometres of coastline. You can move from Badagry along the intra-coastal route to Niger state.
NIWA is responsible for the management, direction and control of all the inland waters of Nigeria within the country’s geographical boundaries. Anything outside the borders is either the work of NIMASA or NPA, NPA is basically in charge of seaports. There are supposed to be river ports under NIWA and these river ports are in the process of construction now. Onitsha river port is completed and it is up for concession, if you go to Lokoja it is almost completed, there is one in Baru, there is another one in Oguta; these are all river ports.
For some time now, much has not been heard on the conflict between NIWA and LASWA, what is the latest?
Well the conflict is actually beyond LASWA, I don’t like to talk about LASWA because LASWA is an illegal creation. As far as I am concerned they are not supposed to exist, for the past five years that I have been here I have never written an official letter to them. I said that they are illegal creation because when the Lagos state government wanted to create them instead of just going to the state assembly and do what I will call a state law, even if that law has conflict with the NIWA law, it doesn’t matter at least it will be a good law. And then where there are conflicts as the constitution has provided to the extent of the conflict or inconsistency their own provisions will become null and void. But they didn’t do that. They repealed the NIWA law, a federal legislation that was enacted in 1997 which establishing NIWA after the advent of parliamentary democracy. All the decrees that were passed by the military including the one that brought civilian dispensation in 1998, they called it transition and other matter, decree of 1998 which they used to start the local government election in December of 1998 and in February 1999 they did other elections. So, if somebody is telling you that NIWA is a military decree, everybody working today in Nigeria is working under the military decree. But you see the beauty of decree is that they are laws; we are not animals we are human beings who are ruled by law. If we don’t have laws to guide us we will behave like animals.
So, instead of them (Lagos Assembly) to repeal the NIWA laws they should have just passed a law establishing LASWA, I would have recognised LASWA, but rather they repealed the NIWA law and replaced the NIWA law with a law establishing LASWA. You don’t need to go to law school to know that that was wrong. Under our constitution, no state House of Assembly has the power to repeal a National Assembly law that is why I said LASWA is an illegal creation and I still stand by it. A Federal High Court sitting in Queens Drive here in Lagos has confirmed this position, although they have succeeded in getting that judgement set aside for now, but we are at the Supreme Court right now and the Supreme Court will adjudicate and whatever they say, we will hold it. We are at the Supreme Court and we are waiting and until the Supreme Court decides, if I see any LASWA official on the waters, I will arrest them. That is why they can’t go on this water.
What are you doing towards sensitising the general public on ways of reducing accidents on the waters?
For some time now we have not had any accident; we thank God for that. What are the causes of accident on the waters; we call them boat mishap. It happens everywhere; both on the air and road. Some of them can be attributed to act of God while some are due to human negligence. Now what we try to do is to minimise some of the mishaps that happen as a result of human negligence. What we have identified as a major cause of the road mishap is what we called loggers, people who move logs by water. If you’re going through the Carter Bridge and you look at Ebutte Meta you will see lots of logs, the woods are sucking the water and it is a process of making the wood strong for the timber industry which is another world entirely.
So what happen is that they move these logs from place to place and at times they lose one or two pieces into the water and so when some of these boats hit the log, they will summersault. That is why we are telling them to control their speed. Another thing we are trying to do is to ensure that those who board passenger boats use life jacket. NIWA is well known for sensitizing and distributing free life jackets all over the country we do that every year, although we don’t make too much noise about it we are federal agency we are not like Lagos that makes too much noise. I always use Lagos because I am a Lagosian, I started my working live in Lagos here back in 1984 when I was a Civil Engineer Grade 11 with NPA.
Why is NIWA having lot of issues here in Lagos than other states?
One word I will use to answer your question is – revenue that is all Lagos is interested in and whether the revenue is legal or illegal, constitutional or unconstitutional they will grab it unless they meet a force that is bigger than theirs. And as a public servant, my job is to defend Nigerian constitution and nobody can intimidate me. I told my stakeholders that what happened in 20008 will never happen again.
What prompted your ultimatum to sand dredgers at Ado road?
The reason is we are concerned basically about environmental degradation, there in Ado road the place where dredging takes place is in a heavily populated area and there is nowhere in the world where you do commercial dredging in such a place. If they are using orthodox technology where you have these orthodox dredgers and you will fix the dredger far away and then through pipe, you will send the sand to the shore. But this system, the modern dredger is far from where the normal dredger should be and they will use the transporter to bring the sand. The modern dredger will put the sand in a transporter and the transporter will now bring the sand and bring it almost close to the water front where they will dig a whole and pour the water inside then they have what we call a pusher. That pusher sucks this sand and in the process of sucking, there are pushers everywhere sucking the sand. You have a pusher sucking in every 10 meters and all these are happening 24 hours in Ado road.
Now, you don’t need to read Geography or Physics to know that these things will have an effect on the subsoil strata. So as you’re sucking the soil is getting weaker and over time it will lead to landscaping. We might wake up one day to see that houses in Ado road have collapsed, what will NIWA do? Very soon, I know they will go and use propaganda and I am ready to counter them.
Secondly, the resident association told us that their children will go to school and they will not get home until 2am at times as a result of bad road. The entire road is filled with wet sand and by law you are not supposed to take wet sand from the site. Normally you should have two dumps, you pump in one of the dumps and leave it to dry and when you want to sell you sell the dried ones. They don’t care about cleaning the place, the truck drivers are being reckless instead of going to the appropriate place to make a U-turn they will do that right on the road risking people lives. So for all these reasons we said no more dredging at Ado road and we have been giving them notice since 2015. My people are already going round and we have given then 14 days to stop pumping after giving them 30days notice and they have begged for another 30 days, but we said no it will make us look unserious.
So what we are trying to do now is to do a post dredging impact analysis of what these activities have caused to the environment, we want to send in experts to do a report which will be sent to Abuja. The only thing I can say to defaulters of the ultimatum is sorry.
As I am talking to you now, residents association on that Ado road has written a petition for us to stop dredging on that road. The state government is ready to repair the road, but they said they will not until dredging stops there. I will make sure that under my tenure, we will save lives on that road.
Recently, we heard that there are plans to relocate NIWA’s head office to Lagos, how true is that?
Really, I am hearing this for the first time; it will be a very good idea. Do you know why I will support that even publicly, because moving headquarters of NIWA from Lokoja to Lagos or Abuja is viable. I I support Lagos because it is the maritime capital of Nigeria and it is where you have NIWA’s sister agencies like NPA, NIMASA, Shippers’ Council, among others. They are all here so if you want to synergise with them, it is very easy instead of having to come all the way from Lokoja. There are some things emails cannot solve.
What is the relationship between NIWA and other sister agencies like, NPA, NIMASA and others?
We have been having a very cordial relationship, like I said NIWA is in charge of inland waters only, NPA is in charge of seaports and NIMASA is in charge of anything that has to do with maritime administration and safety,and the domain for registration of ships in Nigeria under the IMO convention. Shippers’ Council for now is the economic regulator, so we have very warm relationship with all of them.