The Lagos State Government Thursday said it would appeal the judgment delivered by a Federal High Court against tolling of the multi-billion naira Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge saying it is naturally concerned by any development that may jeopardize the benefits accruable to the citizenry from the tolling.
In a quick reaction to the court judgment by Justice Saidu on the matter, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ade Ipaiye, expressed the intention of State Government to appeal the judgment saying collection of toll on the Bridge was meant to augment the State’s Consolidated Revenue Fund and enable the State offset debts incurred on the construction and keep the Bridge properly maintained.
He said the collection was also meant to enhance the capacity of the Government to replicate similar major infrastructure projects for rapid development across the State adding that Government would, therefore, “do its best to seek a reversal of the said pronouncement immediately”.
Noting with due respect to the Honourable Judge that two or three fundamental errors could be found in the Judgment, the Attorney-General declared, “We are, therefore, filing an appeal as well as an Application for Stay of Execution or maintenance of status quo immediately.”
First of the fundamental errors, he said, include the fact that without addressing the submissions of the parties on the point, the court held that the payment made by Julius Berger (contractor on behalf of Lagos State Government) to the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority in respect of the bridge construction amounted to a concession that NIWA was the only authority to regulate inland waterways in Nigeria.
Saying no such concession was made by the Government or himself, the Commissioner declared, “The payment was made by our contractor when NIWA was stalling the multi-billion Naira construction. In fact, we expressly indicated to the court that we filed proof of payment by our contractor without prejudice to our very comprehensive arguments on the right of the State to control its inland waterways. It was not as a concession to the Applicant’s claim”.
“The second fundamental error was the assumption of the court that the Private Public Partnerships Law of Lagos State which we cited in support of toll collection did not apply simply because the bridge construction was not by public-private partnership”, Ipaye said adding, “Contrary to the court’s assumption, the Law clearly states that it applies to public infrastructure or public assets”.
The Attorney General further clarified that tolls chargeable under the Law can clearly be on any public infrastructure or asset, not necessarily on those built with private sector partnership adding that the maintenance and tolling of the bridge is by a private sector company to which a concession was granted by Lagos State Government.
Noting that the Claimant never sought from the court any declaration to the effect that “there was no law to cover the collection of tolls on the bridge”, the Commissioner pointed out that the pronouncement made in this regard was not one of the nine Declarations sought by the Applicant.
“The judgment read this morning did not specifically address many of the questions raised by the Applicant, neither did it grant any of the declarations sought. As you heard for yourselves, no order was made. However, the pronouncements referred to above are capable of being interpreted as court orders, hence our decision to appeal and seek a stay of Execution immediately”, the Commissioner said.
HAKEEM BELLO, SPECIAL ADVISER ON MEDIA TO H.E
MARCH 27, 2014