Following the ruling of the Appeal Court which recently ceded the control of the waterways in Lagos to the Lagos State Government, the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) has said that boat operators are now to pay a cumulative fee of One Hundred and Forty Thousand Naira (N140,000) per boat per annum.
This is in clear contrast of Thirty-Five Thousand Naira (N35,000.00) payable by operators for small capacity boats and Forty-Five Thousand Naira (N45,000.00) payable by operators for big capacity boats per boat per annum charged by the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) who until the recent ruling of the Appeal Court was in control of the waterways.
Announcing the amount to the members of the Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transportation of Nigeria (ATBOWATON) in Lagos on Wednesday, the Secretary LASWA, Mr. Oluwadamilola Emmanuel gave the breakdown of the amount to include; N25,000.00 for registration, N15,000.00 for inspection and survey and N100,000.00 boat operations fee.
He informed that there were three steps to getting started which according to him included application, registration and inspection and survey.
Reacting to boat operators’ comments on the high rate of the fees payable to LASWA compared to what they paid to NIWA, Emmanuel advised them to sit down as an association to agree on what was right for them and forward same to the authority assuring them that both sides would sit down together on the long run to come up with a fee that would be fair to all as LASWA’s position on that was not yet final.
“In all fairness, that is why they are association and I believe that as we sit down and talk together, they will come up with their own position and then the authority will be looking forward to see what can be done because we understand the current economic climate and obviously, we don’t want to chase them out because we want them to obviously help move people on waterways”, he said.
The LASWA Scribe disclosed that the registration done by the boat operators in 2014 was now void as the authority expected them to come forward for fresh registration.
“Whoever knows the waterways will tell you that the operators are very dynamic, that is, they constantly change. We need to update our record, if I bring the record of 2014, you will find out that the current boat operators have changed. So, it is important for us to have accurate data which also informed our investment decisions. So, we definitely have to re-register them”, he explained.
On standardization of boats by the Lagos State government, he said,”The State government is not out to cripple business, we cannot come one day and wipe everyone off the waterways but we must ensure safety which for us is the reason we have asked them for inspection because as we inspect their boats. There must be basic safety standards which these boats must meet, if they don’t meet it, we are going to make sure they are not on the waterways which hasn’t been done in the last few years because of the judgement against us but now, we are going to make sure that is done while also gradually introducing international best practices on the kind of boats that will be on the waterways”.
Responding, the Chairman of ATBOWATON, Lagos State chapter, High Chief Wellington Ilori JP noted that they are law abiding citizen which can be attested to by LASWA and NIWA and would cooperate with LASWA in its effort to execute the court ruling on the control of Lagos waterways.
Ilori explained that the association approached the court to get a clear cut directive of which government to pay to which the High court ruled that we should be paying to NIWA and not to fight with NIWA or LASWA.
“Today, LASWA has taken judgement, we have no objection to that. We are not enemy to LASWA, the judgement is there, we are not objecting to it”, he said.
He however frowned at the seven day ultimatum issued to boat operators by LASWA for the to regularize their operation or be sanction adding that the action was hasty.
The ATBOWATON Chair while informing the delegation from LASWA that they had paid all the fees due for them for this year to NIWA urging them to allow this year to elapse so that they can start making payments to LASWA in the years ahead so as to not to add to their running cost.
“We will comply with you but let our fees for the year that we have made to NIWA expire”, he begged.
Also, speaking, the National President of ATBOWATON, Alhaji Ganiyu Sekoni Balogun decried the fees as stipulated by LASWA contending that it was on the high side but quickly added that it is left for the operators to dialogue with the authority with the intent of arriving at a considerable amount as their running costs had gone up.
He however advised that both NIWA and LASWA should work together to collect the fees and work out a sharing formula between them adding that that was the only way the sector could develop as well as act as checks and balances between them.
He added,” Our members are ready to cooperate with by paying the dues that they are supposed to pay but the issue is multiple taxation that we are having, that is what we don’t want to take. We are ready to cooperate with whichever government that is in charge and that was why I said that if both of them are working together, they will be able to control that situation of overcharging or undercharging because it is only those who wear the shoes know where it pinches”.
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