Supreme Court Affirms Nigeria’s Control Of Inland Waterways


The Supreme Court restored the judgment delivered on March 28, 2014, by Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Lagos and reversed the July 18, 2017, judgment of the Court of Appeal (Lagos division), which set aside the Federal High Court judgment.

The Court of Appeal had, among others, held that the inland waterways within Lagos State, not captured by the National Inland Waterways Act, are within the legislative competence of the state’s Legislature and that the state could collect taxes/levies on businesses on waterways which start and terminate in the state.

Confronted with a regime of multiple charges by the agencies of both the Federal and Lagos governments, ATBOWTN and DAN in 2012 filed a suit, marked FHC/L/CS/543/2012, at the Federal High Court, Lagos, to determine which tier of government was empowered by extant laws to license and levy business operators on the nation’s inland waterways.

In his judgment on the case, Justice Tsoho held, among others, that NIWA and NMSSA are the proper and lawful agencies with authority in matters relating to the commercial activities of ATBOWTN and DAN, who are involved in water tourism, water transportation and sand dredging within the national inland waterways.

Justice Tsoho restrained the Lagos State Waterways Authority and the state’s Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructural Development from further seeking to control the commercial activities of the plaintiffs – ATBOWTN and DAN.

The decision of Justice Tsoho was, however, set aside by the Court of Appeal in its July 18, 2017 judgment on the appeal, marked CA/L/886/2014, filed by the Governor of Lagos State and three others.

NIWA and three others challenged the Court of Appeal’s decision at the Supreme Court, which in the January 5, 2024 judgment reversed the decision of the lower court and affirmed the March 28, 2014 judgment by Justice Tsoho of the Federal High Court.