Features Write-Ups

CURTAILING ILLEGAL MINNING AND DREDGING IN LAGOS

Tayo Ogunbiyi—
The waterways stretching from Badagry to Epe, (with a Peninsular in between, a lagoon at the back and the Atlantic in front), Ikorodu to Marina, Badagry to Marina, among others, are nature’s gifts to Lagos. These are coastlines which many people wish for, being natural habitats yet to be subjected to devastation, global warming, climate change and other environmental hazards.
It is, therefore, shattering that in spite of several warnings by the Lagos State Government to illegal sand miners to desist from their ignoble acts or face prosecution and possible jail terms, the illegal activities have continued unabated, thereby posing threats to water transportation, gas distribution channels and other buried infrastructure in the state. It is, indeed, depressing that some of these illegal miners dug almost four to five meters to the Atlantic. Illegal mining and dredging constitute serious environmental threats to the society. In the first instance, the activities could aggravate flood disasters in concerned areas and expose the entire state to severe consequences. The damages done to the waterways, gas and oil pipelines by illegal miners could also bring terrible disasters to those living along the coastlines, if not now but certainly in the future.
On the economic side, illegal miners and dredgers are thieves who disallow government from maximizing the natural resources of the state for the good of all. Not only are they not licensed to engage in what they are doing, they are equally denying those that are lawfully permitted by law the leeway to operate. Illegal sand mining and dredging equally lead to direct cause of erosion which has destroyed lives and property of law abiding citizens and still threaten lives and property of more citizens.
It also impacts negatively on wildlife, as sea animals that depend on sandy beaches for their nesting, are sent into near extinction. It also destroys fishery, causing economic problems for people who rely on fishing for their livelihoods. They are put out of business, worsening poverty, encouraging criminal activities as these people become desperate for survival. Perhaps, more importantly, illegal sand mining pose a great threat to tourism enterprise in the state, as beaches and other sites people would have visited for relaxation and other social activities, have been devastated.
These acts of illegality , run contrary to the law enacted in 2004 by the fifth Lagos State House of Assembly, entitled: “A Law To Provide For The Regulation And Grant of Permit To Any Person Conducting Sand Dealing And Dredging Operation In Lagos State And For Connected Purposes.” The law stipulates that every person, corporation, partnership or body involved in sand dealing and/or sand dredging operation should obtain an operational permit from the state.
Illegal mining is a very dangerous business that nobody should be involved in and the Lagos state Government is not in any way unmindful of the danger it poses to the socio-economic landscape of the state. This is partly why the Ambode administration recently empowered relevant security agencies with diverse professional equipment ranging from surveillance helicopters to speed boats. It is an open secret that the administration has invested billions of naira in the security sector since it came on board about eight months ago. The objective is to ensure that relevant security agencies in the state are sufficiently empowered to protect lives and properties as well as being effectively positioned to apprehend criminals of all sorts.
Administratively, the state government, as always, has been streamlining the activities of sand miners and dredgers in the state in line with international best practices. This is being done through new strategies meant to check and coordinate sand mining and dredging activities and avoid serious and irreparable catastrophe to the landscape. At a recent stakeholders’ forum on the subject, the state government has suspended, for now, all activities relating to sand dredging in the state. This is to ensure that new operational modalities agreed upon by all stakeholders are arrived upon.
Perhaps, more importantly, since the crime is a local one, it is important that community leaders, representatives of the people and traditional rulers within the communities where this dangerous crime occur, collaborate with government to end this illegal activity.
Similarly, law enforcement agencies should summon courage and cooperate with communities’ leaders and other stakeholders to stem the tide of illegal mining and sand dredging in the state. Law enforcement officers should not connive with these criminals to undermine the security, economy and environmental landscape of the state. To do this would certainly be to allow the billions of naira the state government has invested, thus far, in empowering security agencies in the state go into the drains.
In order to sustain what is left of the aesthetics of the environment and frustrate a possible disaster arising from the activities of these illegal sand miners, relevant law enforcement agencies should bring the full weight of the law to bear on the illegal activities of these criminals. Residents with relevant information on the activities of illegal miners and dredgers could contact the Lagos State Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources and relevant security agencies.
Similarly, in order to ensure that the war against illegal sand mining and dredging is effectively coordinated, registered miners could help to complement government’s actions against illegal miners by identifying and assisting government to get rid of these unscrupulous citizens, whose activities are injurious to their business. Since the activities of these heartless hoodlums represent a threat to the common good of all, we should all join hands together to ensure that sand miners and dredgers found operating illegally in unauthorised places are apprehended accordingly.
In a world that is being confronted with serious environmental threats from Cape to Cairo and Beijing to Melbourne, it is important that all stakeholders join hands to ensure that the danger of illegal sand mining is tackled head long in the state. That our society has not witnessed vicious natural environmental disasters does not mean that we are naturally immune from such.

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