Cross River State Governor, Professor Ben Ayade has created the state’s Ports Authority and approved the appointment of Senator Florence Ita-Giwa as its Chairman.
It is not clear what the role of the Cross River Ports Authority would be and if its creation is in line with the constitution as only the Federal Government has the constitutional powers to license and regulate port operations in the country.
Ayade also made several other appointments into key boards and parastatals of the state.
The appointments were made known in a press release signed by the Governor’s Special Assistant on Media & Chief Press Secretary, Christian Ita.
Maritime Lawyer, Emeka Akabogu, while commenting on the development said, “whether or not the Governor of a state can create a port authority is largely determined by the functions he has designated the authority to perform. If the functions and scope of operations of the authority are outside the functions of the Nigerian Ports Authority and within the constitutional powers of the state, then the Cross River Ports Authority may have a legal basis to function.
“However, my opinion is that such an authority will have extremely limited powers to do anything which a true port authority should ordinarily do, since by the combined reading of the constitution of Nigeria and the Nigerian Ports Authority Act, the Federal Government has almost covered the field,” he added.
According to him, matters of maritime shipping and navigation relating to all tidal waters in addition to inland waters declared to be international or inter-regional waterways are under the exclusive list of the constitution. “As a result, the Federal Government alone is entitled to exercise jurisdiction over such issues. The exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal Government also covers all ports declared to be Federal Ports. Under the Nigerian Ports Authority Act, Calabar Port is designated as a Federal port. In addition, all ocean fronts in Nigeria are already declared ports under the Act, and this is deemed to include ocean fronts where physical ports have yet to be built”.
“Explaining further, he said: “In that event Cross Rivers State government has no jurisdiction over any ocean fronts without the collaboration of the federal government, in which case the Nigerian Ports Authority must be involved. With the foregoing already covered by the NPA Act and the constitution, the Cross River Ports Authority will have very limited powers to undertake anything near what a normal ports authority should. It looks to me that at best, it will be a ports authority in name alone.”
By Pita Ochai