A Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday ordered the Lagos State Government to stop collecting toll on the N29billion Ikoyi-Lekki link bridge, describing the act as illegal.
No sooner was the judgment delivered than the human rights activist and counsel in the suit, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, mobilised aggrieved Lagosians to block the link bridge, thereby preventing motorists from easy access.
THISDAY investigation revealed that this led to chaos as motorists who were looking forward to taking the bridge to their destinations were held up in traffic for hours.
It gathered that the stretch of Bourdillon, Alexander, Osborne and other adjoining roads in Ikoyi were completely blocked and chaotic.
The presiding judge of the court, Justice Saliu Saidu, while delivering judgment in the suit by Adegboruwa, against the state government over the collection of toll on the bridge, held that from all the documents before the court, the only justification for the toll was the public private partnership law.
The court said the law cannot apply to the Lekki-Ikoyi bridge as it was built with the money of the state, without any private partnership involved.
The court further held that the powers of control of all navigable waterways in Nigeria resides in the federal government.
Justice Saidu held that he would consider the case on its merit rather delving into technical issues raised in the addresses of counsels.
“The further counter affidavit of the third and fourth respondents, and the response of the first and second respondents, have answered most of the questions before this court.
“The second respondent National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) is the only federal agency to form and regulate navigable waterway in the country, in line with the NIWA Act.
“The applicant did not contest this issue, but only goes further to raise the issue of collection of toll from the subject matter.
“The third respondent tried to justify the collection of such toll in paragraph 26 of their counter affidavit, by stating that when the bridge is erected, its proceeds will be applied to the consolidated revenue fund of the state.
“The question now is, has the state made the appropriate law to enable her collect such toll on the bridge?
“The third respondent only cited sections 27, 28, and 29 of the state Public Private Partnership Law 2011 as making provision for the collection of revenue.
“There is nothing before me to show that the subject matter in this case was as a result of any Public Private Partnership law, to enable the law of 2011 be extended.
“The fact before this court is that the bridge was built with the third respondents money.
“I agree and uphold the construction of the bridge, and the power of the LASG to generate revenue there from, but the existing laws does not cover it.
“I therefore hold that the third respondent can only make a law to that effect, before it can collect tolling on the Lekki-Ikoyi bridge,” the court held.
Joined as first and second respondents are the Attorney General of the Federation, and the NIWA. The Attorney General of the state, Mr. Adeola Ipaye, and the state government, are third and fourth respondents respectively.
Adegboruwa had filed the suit on November 26, 2012, for a declaration that the state government had no authority to erect a bridge, on the lagoon which is categorised by law as federal navigable waterways.
He had also sought a determination of court as to whether there existed any law in Nigeria, authorising the collection of such tolls, tax or fee from citizens.
Adegboruwa therefore wanted the court to declare that the imposition of such tariff on road users is an illegal form of taxation and is inconsistent with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The human right activist while reacting to the judgment, said: â€œI commend the courage of the judge, especially against the background of the impunity that we are all being subjected to in this country.
Coming a day after the same court nullified the imposition of new number plates, this judgment should be an elixir, to all Nigerians, to proceed to challenge all illegal taxes and arbitrary charges, in the name of road tax, PHCN meter maintenance charge, estimate bills, without electricity, etc.â€
But the state government has said it would appeal the judgment
The state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Ade Ipaye, at a news conference in Alausa, noted that the state government would appeal the court decision immediately.
According to him, “We are therefore filing an appeal as well as an application for stay of execution immediately. Firstly, without addressing the submissions of the parties”