Lagos and Mining: In the Name of the Father and Son

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By Farouk Mustapha.

Dr Dele Alake, Nigeria’s Minister of Solid Minerals Development, bared his fangs about two weeks ago, warning ambitious Governors eyeing exclusive mineral resources exploitation vide state legislations, to keep away from deep pot of national resources or be faced with Federal litigation.

Alake, a former Lagos Commissioner of Information and Strategy, lately Special Adviser to the President on Media and Strategy, and redeployed to the Solid Minerals resources Ministry, at the behest of a solid minerals conference in Abuja last week, disclosed that the Federal government is worried about rash of illegal legislations by some State governors eyeing the exclusive jurisdiction of the sector, noting that such effusive interests are dead on arrival.

The minister likened the Federal government exclusive hold in the sector to the same measures of engagement in the oil and gas ecosystem and to which is clearly out of bound to the State governments.

Dr Dele Alake, Minister of Solid Minerals Development

Last week Thursday at a stakeholders meeting at the instance of the Lagos State Ministry of Energy and Solid Minerals resources to ” discuss family matters,” the organised National Dredgers Association of Nigeria, drew the attention of the Alake clarion call to Lagos Energy and Solid minerals ministry officials, triggering off bitter contentions.

How did this happen? In Lagos, it is an open secret that the State government, through its State Assembly, has enacted certain conflicting legislations, confrontational, and at variance with Federal laws on solid minerals exploitation ( sand mining in particular), on Waterfront landscape and Waterways transportation ecosystem.

In its single-minded pursuit of “Lagos for Lagosians”‘ focal agenda, each of the Governors of Lagos from Babatunde Fashola,( immediate Minister of Works and Housing for eight years) Akinwunmi Ambode and lately Babajide Sanwo-0lu, had not hidden their intention to control natural resources in Lagos State.

While the Governors of other minerals’ resources producing states have evolved strategic partnership with the Federal government even in the face of serious exploitation concerns and abuses, Lagos State is known to instigate confrontational legalism against all the Federal government agencies supervising extant regulations as spelt out by their constitutional mandates.

With due respect to some of such cases awaiting judicial clarification in the highest court in the land, the supreme court, the state is in court with the National Dredgers Association of Nigeria and Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transporters of Nigeria ( ATBOWATON) with National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) joined as interested party on who is right to adjudicate between the Federal government and Lagos State government on these areas of national development and expectations.

These processes have been a ding dong affair between the Private sector, the State and Federal institutions operating in Lagos state. It has never been easy doing business in Lagos as multiple taxation reigns painfully across businesses ecosystem in the 5th biggest market in Africa.

Its avowed commitment to its mega city status and lately greater Lagos initiatives, boldly bears fangs of excessive and multiple taxation, and even where businesses meet up on this corporate policy frameworks, the state civil servants rides on the desperation of business owners to enact their own selfish interpretation of the rules of engagement.

Some of the civil servants are richer than the State government, with some of them active nocturnal dredging operators and owners, ambivalent to even paying taxes and levies to State coffers. The battle to exploitate and mine sand and control inland waterways running through Lagos just like other 28 littoral states in Nigeria is an ongoing war between the Federal government and the Lagos State government.

And with ” Lagos ” now in Abuja and from the visible angry vibes from Dr Dele Alake, the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, there is no doubt that the “Father and the Son” may have to shift positions before other state rises up in agitation to control natural resources in their areas of jurisdiction which they ceded out to the Federal government vide constitutional provisions.

At the Folarin Coker Hall in Alausa, the Special Adviser to the Lagos Governor on Energy and Solid Minerals, Engineer Abiola Okanlawon Olowu, appeared more futuristic and engaging than the selfish entrenched civil servants in the ministry as he marshalled suggestions to enthrone a win win agenda between the Dredgers Association and the State government.

The Dredgers Association is not happy with the criminalisation and punitive oversight measures from the Ministry and the multiple taxes and levies from the Ministries of Waterfront, Environment, Safety Commission , and LASWA to say the least.

Richard Ntan, Executive Secretary of the Dredgers Association, noted that the body has always been supportive to the development of the State, but in contrast seen by the State government officials as enemies of the state, adding that his members particularly those in Lagos, have been visited with draconian measures. He informed that sand mining in Lagos State have contributed to the development of the State, supportive of bricks and mortars constructions of new estates and reclamation efforts, jobs creation in the down stream construction businesses and aiding navigational ecosystem.

Mr Ntan also submitted that the association has contributed to the growth of sand mining support zone communities through the construction of roads and drainages, stating that all sand minied in Lagos are used to develop the State and not taken outside the State, lamenting further that despite the huge taxes and levies paid by operators, Lagos officials are bent at running Dredgers out of the State.

Dredgers Association Legal Adviser, Barrister kembe Adejare, went through memory lane, and called for caution by State government agencies, which have been threatening to close down the operations of Dredgers, adding that the ” father and the son ” should await the supreme Court ruling on the issue in January next year.

Though his position elicited an angry retort from one Mr. Cardoso, who threatened that the State will always find a means under ” interest” ecosystem to have its way against Dredgers despite the Federal government open rebuke, the Special Adviser to Governor on Energy, Engineer Olowu, an astute politician diplomatically rode the tiger out of the storm.

Dredgers Association President, Mr Batare Akpomejero and Mr Anthony Bademosi, an influential Dredging Operator, agreed that going forward, the State government and Dredgers Association will collaborate to arrest the degradation of the environment, and submitted that henceforth all Environmental Protection agreements, site restoration and impact assessment must be visited to help check possible infractions.

On damages to community roads, the leadership of the Dredgers Association suggested that cements should be used for construction in those areas instead of asphalt, which easily wears out during the rainy season.

Participants and stakeholders who thronged the Florin Coker Clinic Hall expressed happiness at the listening ears of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Solid Minerals, Engineer Okanlawon Olowu
who promised to address the overbearing of multiple harassment of State agencies and restore normalcy through a detailed study of the governor’s executive order.

No doubt, if he keeps to his promise, Dredgers Association and other business concerns in the State, particularly on the waterways, will operate peacefully, and participate as concerned stakeholders in the development and socio-economic growth of the State.

Can Engineer Abiola Okanlawon Olowu sustain this new face of engagement with the organised Dredgers association, or should the rules be broken again? We wait and see!

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