Why Lagos Governor
Banned Sand Mining in the State.
By Edmund Chilaka.
Was the recent ban on sand mining throughout
Lagos State triggered by a violent clash of rival cult gangs at Ebute
Ilaje in Bariga in late January this year, as some national dailies
reported? Although subsequent announcements by the government did not
link the incident with the stoppage, the coincidence could not be denied.
DDH investigations show that during the clash, one of the cult gangs
burnt a house belonging to a member of the rival gang, resulting in
the death of a 65 year-old woman, who was sick and could not escape
Subsequently, a security report on the matter got to the Governor, Mr.
Akinwumi Ambode, who went to the trouble spot during the January environmental
sanitation Saturday to see things for himself.
According to an eye witness who lives in the area, after touring the
burnt house and the surrounding locality, including the Ebute Ilaje
artisanal sand miners’ site, an emergent security report implicated
the waterfront operations there. Some sources said that the government
got information that the cultists, who constantly scuffled in the area,
used to escape by speed boats which took off from that waterfront. Thus,
the sand miners were suspected to be responsible for aiding the escape
of the cultists.
They were reportedly blamed for tacit support for the cultists since
they did not raise alarm over the cult clash and the fatal fire incident,
hence a stop-work order was handed down soon after the Governor’s
visit to the area. When DDH visited the area one week after the Governor’s
visit, a police patrol van was seen parked at the sand site. Local sources
said that suspected members of the cult gangs in the area were being
picked up by the authorities.
However, when the magazine interviewed the secretary
of the Ifesowaso Association, the sand miner’s group at Ebute
Ilaje, Mr. Olu Eremiye, he absolved his association members of any linkage
with the cultists. He said they did not know nor support the cultists
in any way and have made representations to the state government to
state their case. Although the stop-work order was being observed at
the site, he hoped that their site would be re-opened the following
week after the Governor considers their plea.
Nevertheless, two weeks after the ban, more clarifications via an official
government statement emerged, attributing the measure to the environmental
hazards of dredging activities in the state and the non-payment of royalties
and annual license and permit fees by the operators. With the clarification,
there was a slight sigh of relief by the operators who had feared that
the ban meant a fresh round of the cat-and-mouse relationship that used
to exist between them and state regulatory agencies in the sector over
what the former termed “double taxation” and high license
At a one-day stakeholders meeting organized by the Lagos State Ministry
of Waterfront and Infrastructure Development (MWID), the ministry engaged
the services of an environment expert, Dr. Reginah Folorunsho, from
the Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Researcher, to demonstrate
the delicate nature of the state’s aquatic ecosystem.
Using a Powerpoint presentation, Dr. Folorunsho revealed the environmental
degradations mechanized sand mining had caused across the state and
the consequent fall in the total volume of sand left to be mined. It
was obvious from the presentation that serious remedial measures were
needed to arrest the anomalies and restore sanity to the environment
and the practice of the dredgers.
In a keynote address, the Commissioner of Waterfront and Infrastructure
Development, Mr. Ade Akinsanya, reiterated the ban on dredging activities
in the state pending the correction of the observed anomalies.
A list of guidelines was later distributed to all attendants for compliance
before individual dredging sites would be permitted to re-open.
In a remarkable twist of events, the state liaison officer of National
Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Malam Sambo, attended the forum and
spoke in unity with the state government despite the history of disagreements
between the two sides.
It will be recalled that since 2007, NIWA and the state government had
been in a face-off over the state government’s repeal of the NIWA
Act to pave way for the establishment of the Lagos State Waterways Authority
(LASWA), which NIWA termed as illegal and unconstitutional, the subject
of a subsisting court case. Moreover, the activities of the Waterfront
Ministry since then had not gone down well with NIWA which alleged undue
interferences by the former in its regulatory activities. At the one-day
stakeholders’ meeting, however, the sudden rapprochement was suspicious
to some operators. Others wondered whether it was a consequence of the
emergence of the All Peoples Congress government at the state and federal
levels, unlike the situation in the past.
Operators were also heard whispering whether the administrative shakeups
in dredging regulation and the new prohibition of dredging activities
at Ado Road in Ajah were pointers to hidden plans by powerful personalities
in the state to corner the entire land for a proposed mega estate said
to be in the offing, waiting for an auspicious time.
Aside from NIWA, MWID and LASWA, other agencies that equally regulate
dredging and sand mining in the state include the Federal Ministry of
Mines and Steel Development (MMSD), the Lagos State Ministry of Energy
and Mineral Resources and the Federal and State ministries of Environment.
While NIWA charges a royalty of N40 per ton of sand mined, the MMSD
charges N100 per ton for the same subject.
The Lagos state ministries, LASWA and MWID, require dredgers to obtain
licenses for their dredgers in three categories of A, B and C, depending
on their sizes. Also, operators need to obtain a license for the sand
Ab initio, any dredging company which plans to own a river-sand mining
site must apply to the NIWA for cadastral license, as an approval for
the specific location’s geographic coordinates.
The application presupposes that the applicant has bought or leased
the land from the land owners and enjoys their backing. A similar application
to MMSD and approval process will be made if the sand mining project
is in a shore location. For large-scale reclamation projects, the Federal
Ministry of Environment also charges additional royalty per ton of sand
dumped as well as an approved environmental impact assessment (EIA)
of the project.
Nevertheless, the sand mining industry in Lagos state is the most diverse
and controversial of all the sand markets by state in Nigeria. Many
reasons account for this. The state produces and uses the largest quantity
of sand in Nigeria as well as absorbs supplies from neighbouring Ogun
State to satisfy the domestic, commercial and industrial needs of the
estimated megacity population of over 20 million, plus suburban inhabitants.
The heavy demand also arises from the fast pace of civil construction
projects and the constant need to reclaim the land for most infrastructure
works due to its marine topography. Being an aquatic state, lots of
sand and concrete piling are required for foundation laying. Coupled
with major road constructions to Epe and Badagry, massive real estate
developments and Free Trade Zone mega reclamation projects at the Lekki
peninsula, and the springing up of whole new cities from the sea, such
as Eko Atlantic City, Lagos State easily consumes an estimated 40 million
to 50 million cubic metres of sand per annum since the new millennium.