Recent media report has it that Lekki – Epe in Lagos Island is the fastest developing area in West Africa. This fact cannot be disputed by any who has lived here for some five or six years now. Areas that hitherto were waterlogged and inaccessible are now dotted with stately buildings and edifices typical of any modern city. Indeed, Lagos mega city project is first becoming a reality! One of the major challenges facing property developers especially in Lekki Epe area of Lagos state is the dearth of sand, the principal building material. The resultant multiplier effect of this shortage is the high cost of the material. This short supply is attribute to several factors.
The Lagos State governments clamp down on indiscriminate mining of sand ahs been blamed for this. The apparent government refusal to grant mining permit to the dredging companies has a share of the blame. The controversy over who is entitled to issue mining permit between the state government on one hand and Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority and Ministry of Mines and Steel on the other hand, many have not helped matters. They hike up the price to a record high. Presently, a ten-ton truck load of sand sales at between N26,000 and N30,000.
Thus, mining companies whose site were either closed down for non compliance with environmental impact assessment or who was stopped outrightly by the government have moved to other venues. We decided to investigate this and to ascertain the source of sand that criss-cross the Epe axis of Lekki. It was gathered that Julius Berger is still mining sand at their site located at Ajah. Displaced Miners too, have resorted to illegal mining so as to stay in business.
One of the sand dealers who pleaded anonymity claimed that they employ the services of boat owners who dig sand from across the rivers and lagoon and bring them onshore where we buy this sands.
It was also gathered that some individuals in this sand dredging business who bought land in the Epe-Eleko axis has converted such lands into mining sites. This type of sand according to the sand dealer is majorly used for sand filling purposes.
Another sand dealer visited refused to disclose the source of sand. He claimed that it was too dangerous to his business to divulge such information. Mr. Isaac Anayo, a building contractor, noted that his customers usually supplied him sand he used for sand-filling his sites from the Eleko- axis.
Further investigation to unravel the source of the sand now being used for various ongoing construction projects at Lekki-Ajah axis took our reporter to some of these sites. One such site visited was the proposed American International School being constructed by a well-known construction company. According to the spokesperson of the company, who gave his name as Mr. Sam, the company buys its sand from Ogun State, from the local miners who mine sand from the riverine areas of Ogun State.
Further investigation revealed that Lagos state government has become involved in the mining business of sand. According to Daleey Ahakiru, a sand dealer at Berger bus Stop, Ajah,” the Lagos State government has assumed control of the Ikorodu sand mining site as well as Awoyaya water front mining site. They now sale sand to us which we in turn, resell to our client”. When asked the price of a twenty ton truck load of sand, he said that it cost about N60,000 for sharp white sand and N56,000 for the black sharp sand got from local miners.
To substantiate the veracity of the information, we visited a dredging site at Awoyaya where Brass top dredging and marine services company operates. Sand dredging operation was not going on at the Awoyaya water front site because the government has stopped them. There, heaps of sharp sands mined were being is now controlled by Lagos state government. Two police officers met on the site, Mr. Osagie and Mr. Chinonso who said they were from Alausa to control activity on the site, did not grant the permission to discuss with the actual dredging company. According to them, the order from the boss is that no one should be allowed entrance except the truck drivers and the sand dealers accompanying them. A buyer met at the site narrated how a friend lost his money to some area boys when he was driven out of a mining site. These boys moved away his truck load of sand to his total dismay.
Another site visited was a surface mining site commonly called burrow put at Lakowe in Ibeju Lekki. There tractors were at work excavating the surface layers of sand to a depth of about five feet. Miners interacted with reiterated that their boss entered into agreement with the land owners to mine the sand and after which the land is returned to the owner.
It was also observed that the miners keep moving to new sites after exhausting the available sand on a site. In fact, we had to cross a site that had already been exhausted to a new site farther inside where mining operation was currently going no. According to the miners, filling sand and plaster sands are obtained from this burrowed pits. One of the miners explained that the difference between filling sand and plaster sand is that plaster sand is sticky to the touch and is usually covered by filling sand.
It was also learnt that the sand dredging activity of Julius Berger at the Palaver yard Ajah is authotrised by the government. The mined sand is majorly used for all Julius Berger construction projects. According to one of the drivers of Julius Berger truck, Mr. Joseph, met at the palaver yard dredging site, “we do not sell o dredged sand to sand dealers. Our contract works are going on”. This confirms what and official of Julius Berger at the American International school construction site who are in charge of the sand filling project earlier told our reporter.
It was also alleged that some highly placed individuals resident at Ajah and Ajiran area have joined in the illegal mining and selling of sand. A dealer who does not want her name mentioned said she was aware that there was mining activity going on around Chevron and Jakande round about by Femi Okonu Estate, where she obtains her supply. Information gathered showed that they usually transport their sand so early in the morning or so late at night to evade possible arrest and interrogation.
Block industries nestled along the Ajah-Lekki Epe axis either make use of Beach sand or patronise these miners. For some of these block industries, the use of landrover to supply sand is very common. And this usually takes place early in the morning or at night. It was also observed that the police at the checkpoints along Ajah-Epe axis appear to be more interested in the higher sum of money this truck drivers give them than concern for the legality of the supplied sand.
Feeding question from our report, Mr. Biodun Fatimehin who is involved in the dredging business here in Lekki have his own account of the sand dredging situation in Lagos. According to him, no dredging company has been given approval to dredge sand in Lekki. There us a serious controversy between the Lagos State government and the Federal ministry of mines and Steel and the national Inland Water Ways Authority. Over who control dredging operations. The law empowers the ministry of mines and steel to licence mining operators. The same goes for National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA). However the state government claimed that she is entitled to control all activities in her territorial waters. Hence the creation of Lagos State Ministry of Water front Infrastructure Development. These dredging companies that had been operating under approval from the Federal agencies were asked to seek permission from the state government brought out this new law for all dredging companies to come and register under them in order to obtain operating license. The ministry require that dredging companies who want operating licence issued them must bring along environmental Impact assessment report, tax clearance certificate and survey plan document.
Most of the dredging companies accepted this government demand, and are in the process of completing the process. However, they move to site and started dredging sand without completing the registration process. The government subsequently sent revenue collectors to this dredging sites. The host communities is was alleged complained to the state government about the massive degradation of their environment. This, couples with the company’s refusal to remit revenue to the government led to government’s action to take over the sand mining operation and to take control of selling the sand at any site they are aware of. Even Roseland dredging company that recently move to Awoyaya near where Brass Top dredging and Marine Services company operate could not operate any further as a result of the government’s takeover of their dredging site.
Mr. Biodun further said that there was unsubstantiated report that the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel has reclaimed Ikorodu mining site and has driven the Lagos State Task Force.
Responding to question about community reaction and dredging companies responsibility toward host community, Mr. Biodun said that they try as much as possible to involve the community. According to him, “we have a community involvement plan in our agenda. We usually arrange stakeholder meeting where the elders and our official sit down to talk about our operation. We usually outline or social responsibility programme for them such as improving social amenities, employing members of the community and compensating the local fisherman who are mostly affected by our operations.
As to the solution to the rising cost of sand and the controversy over the control of mining in the state, Mr. Biodun opined that the state government actually is tno entitled by Nigerian Law to control mining operation. But that it is, the duty of Federal agencies – National Inland Water Ways authority and the Ministry of Mines and Steel. For the availability of sand, he further advised the state government to sensitize and sanitize the dredging companies and to ensure that companies given permit to operate to meet the demand of all stakeholders. Conclusively, he said that dredging has come to stay in Nigeria. We cannot rule our dredging because of the shallow waterways especially in the Niger-Delta states of Bayelsa, Rivers and Cross River where dredging is the only available source of sand for construction.
This investigation therefore, shows that illegal/unapproved mining accounts for a higher percentage of sand supply used at most construction sites in Lekki-Ajah. The sand supply from Eleko-Ibeju axis, mostly used for sandfilling and plastering purposes are mined from acquired lands. The few supply from government – controlled dredging sites command higher prices than the illegally mined ones.
Lekki Concession Construction Company, the contractor handling the expansion and rehabilitation of Lekki-Epe Expressway, Like Julius Berger construction company has the state government’s backing on their mining activities. This is because they are working for the state government.
Major sand dealers and dredging firms had started a major search for alternative dredging locations outside Lagos state especially the coastal states of Niger-Delta.
Concerted effort should therefore be made by government to reduce the cost of sand. Also the government should take necessary steps to integrate the miners into the government plan so as to supervise their mining operations and to avoid environmental degradation.
There should be a government established and enforced benchmark price for sand. These measures will go along way in checking the illegal mining of sand going on in this area of Lagos State