Who Controls Sand Dredging and Waterfronts in Lagos?
It started first as a clampdown by the Lagos state government against all dredging sites in Ajah in late 2007. But by early 2008, some agencies of the Lagos State government began to lay claim to being the rightful agency to control dredging activities in the state. Some, moving with force, made routine frequent arrests of men and equipment found on all erring sites. Earlier in the year, the state governor, Babatunde Fashola, had set up a committee to see to the development of the sector for what some government apparatchiks called enhanced revenue generation for the state. Then the Lagos State Ministry of Waterfront Infrastructure Development which had joined in the fray of patrolling dredging sites and closing some down, especially at Ikorodu, issued a newspaper statement in The Punch of February 12, 2008 and made quite a showing of what it claims were its mandates over dredging in the state. The public notice reminded readers, among other things, that
- “all applications in respect of completed, on-going or proposed sand filling/dredging and reclamation projects should be forwarded to the Ministry of Waterfront Infrastructure Development
- “Consequently, the Ministry of Waterfront Infrastructure Development needs to properly coordinate the dredging and sandfilling activities in the State in order to protect our environment against pollution, flooding and also conserve the water bodies for tourism activities which the State is naturally positioned for.
- The only agency authorized to control activities relating to sandfilling and dredging in the State is the Ministry of Waterfront Infrastructure Development.
Two weeks after this development, the National Inland Waterways Authority came out with a rebuttal, and directing all members of the public, in large parts, to disregard some aspects of the claim of Lagos State Infrastructure ministry. NIWA stated in its public notice that,
- “For the purpose of clarity, the above functions i.e. issuance of licenses for jetty operation within the Declared Right of Way, Granting Permit and License for dredging and Reclamation of Land within the Right of Way is the Exclusive responsibility of NIWA as contained in Part II, Section 9(g)(i)(m) of NIWA Decree No.13 of 1997 (now Cap 47 Laws of the Federation 2004.
- “It should also be noted that all the Inland Waterways in Lagos (as contained in NIWA Act 1997) has been automatically designated by the National Assembly as a Federal Navigable Waterway on the 29 th May, 1999 when the Constitution came into force.
- “Lagos State Government cannot usurp the powers of the Federal Government of Nigeria regarding maintenance, direction and control of the Declared Right of Ways through a new creation by way of a State Ministry to run pari-passu with NIWA in terms of statutory powers and functions as enshrined in its Enabling Law.
- “All operators /prospective operators operating or intending to operate within the Declared Inland Waterways of Nigeria in any State (including Lagos State) should ignore the misleading Public Notice issued by Lagos State Government as it was published in some National Dailies…”
When DDH contacted the NIWA Lagos office for some clarifications, an official who spoke on condition of anonymity debunked the allegations being made by Lagos State Government officials. He said it was surprising that when the Lagos State Government dredged almost 500,000 cubic metres of sand to reclaim portions of the Iluburin Canal last year, it conveniently forgot that a tsunami could be instigated by such activities. On the tsunami bit, the official said that such a claim was purely borne out of ignorance, saying that the tsunamis that happened in other lands were caused by sub-sea earthquakes and happened in places with a history of such occurrences.
He further carpeted the Lagos state government as being hypocritical on the role of NIWA, saying that whenever the state government needed approvals for its jetties and related infrastructure, it had always applied in writing to NIWA and got such approvals and paid the stipulated fees. He wondered why an official of the state government could now make contradicting public notices as if the NIWA laws and activities were not well-founded or were a usurpation.
On the question of Banana Island in Ikoyi part of Lagos, the NIWA official informed the magazine that the land was sold to the individuals by the Lagos State Government. He queried why the same state government should now turn round and question the buyers who are only trying to build bund walls and embankment to protect against the waves and flooding from the lagoon or to query NIWA for granting licenses to such applicants since such grants were covered in the NIWA mandate.
Meanwhile the price of sand is already affected. As at press time the upward price trend continued and dredging firms saw a likely continued upward spiral. The face-off also continued unresolved as at press time, with the Lagos State Government apparently vesting all powers that have to do with dredging on the Waterfront Infrastructure Development ministry. This came out after a stakeholders meeting called by the Honourable Commissioner in charge of that ministry, Prince Adesegun Oniru, where the Office of the Special Adviser on Mineral Resources Development put up appearance and said all powers they had formerly exercised were now vested in the Commissioner.