HomeFeaturesSand Miners, Anambra Council Clash Over Planned Demolition

Sand Miners, Anambra Council Clash Over Planned Demolition

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Sand miners at the bank of River Niger in Onitsha, Anambra State, have faulted the demolition of their buildings and mining equipment by the Onitsha South Local Government allegedly on the orders of the state government.

The Eastern Updates recalls that the council had some time in February, carried out the demolition of the miners’ installation, and dredging equipment and sealed their mining activities along Niger Street, Ose Ekwodu market, and other parts of the River Niger banks, saying that the buildings and equipment constituted nuisance and at the same time defaced the topography of Onitsha as a commercial city.

But at a stakeholders meeting between the sand miners and the National Inland Waterways Authority, on Saturday, the sand miners, under the aegis of the Onitsha Sand Miners Association, said they were deeply devastated by the demolition exercise.

The President of the association, Chief Chris Mbaegbu, claimed that during the demolition, more than 10 crafts and sand dredgers worth over N30m each were destroyed, while buildings worth billions of naira were pulled down and looted by the agents of the local government officials.

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Mbaegbu said the demolition was carried out, despite an interlocutory injunction from a court restraining any person from interfering or carrying out any demolition which was tantamount to “contempt of court,” saying that the local government authorities ignored the injunction.

He said, “To worsen the matter, the action of the local government officials has rendered more than 2,000 persons in the sand mining business jobless as a result of its multiplier effect on the dependants in this harsh economy. We, therefore, urged the state governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, to intervene and restore us to business since the miners are paying revenue to both the state government, NIWA, and the Federal Ministry of Mines.”

Also speaking after the meeting, the NIWA Area Manager for Onitsha, Nicholas Suleiman, said he convened the meeting of the stakeholders when he saw news circulating on social media that NIWA sold the land to some of the sand miners.

Suleiman insisted that the meeting was equally convened to debunk such allegations of NIWA selling the River Niger banks to sand miners, adding that the fact remained that the miners were tenants to those who acquired the lands from the original land owners.

He said, “It is not in dispute that some people who acquired the land from Onitsha indigenes many years ago are landlords to the sand miners who may have rented individual portions of the lands from the various landlords and then applied to NIWA which has the control of 100 meters from the River for certification and if their application is granted by NIWA, they would commence mining operations and at the same time pay revenues to both NIWA and other statutory bodies.

“Over 75 per cent of all the revenues generated by NIWA from all business activities at the river banks in the country formed part of revenues being shared between the federal, state, and local governments in the country every month as federal allocation.”

Reacting to the development when contacted, the Secretary of the Onitsha South Local Government Area, Paul Onuachalla, insisted that “NIWA overstepped its bounds and abused its right of way as contained in its establishment Act by going out of its way to build parks, markets, and warehouses for rents and to collect revenues from the traders which are under the state and local government acts”.

Onuacualla, who denied committing any contempt of court by ignoring an interlocutory injunction restraining the local government from carrying out the demolition exercise, as alleged by the sand miners, said the exercise was already completed before the arrival of the court order.

The Eastern Updates

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