The Nigerian Dredgers Association has accused the Lagos State government of stirring massive controversy by claiming most waterfront property at prestigious Banana island, arresting federal government licensed dredgers and forcefully taking over reclaimed lands.
About fourteen members of the association were reportedly arrested by the Lagos task force for allegedly contravening laid down instructions by the state government.
Most of the arrested dredgers reportedly slept in the taskforce office in Alausa and efforts to bail them by the leadership of dredgers association and other concerned stakeholders was rebuffed.
Inside sources alleged that the frontal infraction at Banana island was generated by a retire general ( name withheld) a former military governor of the state who pulled all strings with Lagos government which now instructed a special waterfront taskforce to dislodged dredgers on an ongoing reclamation site which the former governor wants by all means and at any cost.
Worrisome to the dredgers association is the fact that certain waterfront cases are in court and also the attempt as a clear signal that Lagos State government wants to confront and dislocate licensed operators and run them out of the state.
Mr Richard Ntan, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Dredgers Association disclosed that illegal arrest and detention of his members by the Lagos government and his waterfront taskforce is vexatious, annoying and provocative, adding that the invasion at a legal dredging site by the state can be likened to land grabbing.
“My association is studying the development and by this interview notifying relevant structures of government to call the Lagos waterfront commissioner to order and to cause our arrested members to be set free.
” We are law abiding citizens and doing our jobs within the ambits of the law, so if anyone has issues over a site, disputed or not, to forcefully and brazenly arrest legitimate operators is undemocratic and will be challenged.” Mr Ntan fumed.
He further alleged that the Lagos waterfront commissioner is misleading the governor concerning the site which the former military governor wants to grab through the use of the Lagos taskforce on waterfront adding that searches conducted by the dredgers association revealed that the ex governor was denied federal government permit on grounds of providing misleading information concerning the said controversial site and having failed in several attempts, decided to use Lagos State waterfront commissioner who is alleged to be his political son to push for a takeover and caring less what happens to innocent and legitimate dreading firms and their workers who are languishing behind bars.
But the Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development, Ahmed Abdullahi, has said that the dredgers were arrested because they failed to comply and play by the rules.
“In some locations, they have extended up to 120 metres beyond the original shoreline, narrowing the waterways and creating nuisance hindering water transportation.”
He said the reclamation extensions for real Estate development were identified in 23 locations on the shoreline of Banana Island which were at different stages of completion.
“They were promptly marked for removal and restoration of the shoreline,” he said.
According to Abdullahi, the 14 illegal dredgers arrested have been taken to court and are being prosecuted by the Environmental and Special offences Court in Oshodi, Lagos.
The Compliance monitoring exercise is expected to continue into the Lekki Peninsula, Ikorodu and the Ojo-Badagry axis in the weeks ahead.