The Lagos State Government on Monday asked a Federal High Court, Lagos, to dismiss a suit challenging its plan to collect toll on the recently constructed Lekki-Ikoyi suspension bridge.
The suit was filed by a human rights activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, challenging the legality of construction of a bridge on a federal navigable water way and seeking to collect toll on same.
At the hearing on Monday, Ade Ipaye, the state Attorney-General, said that a preliminary objection had been filed challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the suit.
He told the court that the applicant’s suit was incompetent and premature since there was yet to be a decision as to whether or not to collect toll on the bridge.
“All remedies sought by the applicant are in respect of the tolling, since they have not suggested that the bridge be removed,” Mr. Ipaye said.
“In the first place, the applicant commenced this suit by an originating summons, which is not the appropriate mode of commencing an action of this nature. There are uncontroversial facts that the bridge in question has not even been formally handed over to the Lagos State Government and so, the applicant’s action is too early in the day.
“The court does not deal with hypothetical cases of this nature, but with substantial evidence.
According to him, the sole evidence in support of the applicant’s claim is the newspaper publication which does not testify to the veracity of the facts contained in it. He argued that the National Inland Waterway Act (NIWA) did not prevent states from building bridges upon its waterway.
Mr. Ipaye argued that Section 315 (1) (b) of the Act empowers states to make laws touching on internal waterways.
He therefore urged the court to dismiss the suit for lacking merit, since there were no allegations that the bridge impedes navigation.
In his response, the applicant told the court that the pivotal issue before the court concerns the supremacy of two laws.
Adegboruwa said that the NIWA Act enacted by the National Assembly vests all federal navigable waterways on the Federal Government.
He objected to the contention by Ipaye that the Lagos State Inland Waterway Law of 2011 had repealed the NIWA Act.
“It is an anomaly for a state law to repeal a federal law.
“Section 4(5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) provides for the superiority of federal laws over state laws and renders void, any law which is inconsistent with it,’’ he said.
The activist, therefore, urged the court to dismiss the preliminary objection and uphold the case of the applicant.
Justice Saliu Saidu reserved ruling for July 9.
The applicant had filed the suit on November 26, 2012, challenging the purported plan to collect N500 toll on the newly constructed Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge.
Mr. Adegboruwa stated in his originating summons that reports on the proposed toll collection was published by the Guardian Newspaper of Oct. 8, 2012.
The applicant is therefore seeking an injunction restraining the government from collecting any toll from motorists on the bridge.
Joined in the suit are the Attorney-General of the Federation and the National Inland Waterways Authority.