Gov. Babatunde Fashola
Lagos State Government has arrested fourteen illegal dredgers in different parts for allegedly operating without permits and failing to engage the service of licensed dredgers in line with the state directives.
Consequently, the suspects were late week arraigned before an Environmental and Special Offences Special Offences Magistrate Court sitting in Alausa for alleged illegal dredging operations, thereby engaging in activities precarious to lives and properties along the costal line of the state.
Those arraigned include Mr. Henry Akinwunmi of RHS Dredging Engineering Limited, Mr. Adeniyi Oni and Mr. Akeem Tijani of Goldbrooke Investment Nigeria Limited as well as Mr. Osewa Gbenga of Ibile Holdings.
Other suspects include Messrs. Jackson Ossai, Osagie Anthony and Sunday Okonkwo of Renecon Co. Ltd, Mr. Tayo Phillips, Mr. Friday Nicholas and Mr. Moses Amana of Vibrapac Dredging Services and Mr. Jacob Tonyo of Swan Dredging Company Ltd, Mr. Adekiye Koko and Mr. Lawrence Teeh of Denka Dredging Services.
The presiding Magistrate, Mrs. Ndidi Johnson, granted the defaulting companies and their staff members bail to the tune of N100,000 with two sureties and that each surety must be blood relations of the suspects with landed properties within the jurisdiction of the court and deposit N50,000 with the court
In another development, Chase Nigeria Limited was allegedly found to be dredging without permit, but its staff members jumped into the water on sighting operatives of Lagos State Taskforce on Environmental and Special Offences, who removed some components of their dredging machine.
Also, two firms namely; Knightsbridge dredging Limited and Tranards Nigeria Limited were involved in multiple usage of their permit with other companies; an act the Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development, Mr. Adesegun Oniru, described as illegal and outlawed.
At a recent briefing, Oniru promised stiffer penalties against illegal dredging operators due to the inherent danger such activities pose to lives and properties of residents across the state, saying despite the provisions of the existing law; illegal dredging activities “still persist along the waterfront of the state”.
According to the commissioner, any dredger that fails to obtain the necessary permit will be prosecuted under the proposed amended law on dredging, sand-filling and land reclamation activities, which will soon be enacted by the State House of Assembly.
He explained despite series of warning and stop work orders passed “to individuals and organisation who engage in multiple usage of permit, the illegal action still persist, any licensed dredger that releases or issue multiple permit to individual or corporate organisation would have its permit revoked”.
Oniru reiterated that the state government “has zero tolerance for any form of illegal activities within the state lagoon and coastline and that the ministry will leave no stone unturned to ensure that all such unauthorised activities are checkmated and sanity brought into the dredging industry”.
The commissioner said failing might attract various penalties that could range from huge amount of fines to imprisonment so as to serve as deterrent to people or companies engaging in such unwholesome activities.