It is a new dawn for dredging companies in Lagos, Nigeria as only operators with Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Bathymetric/Sand Search Reports would henceforth be issued operational permits. 



The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) which is the Federal Government parastatal constitutionally saddled with regulatory and monitory functions in the sector, last Thursday, reeled out new operational guidelines in order to check excesses.



From now on,  “dredge machines must be spaced at a minimum distance of 500m away from each other. The permissible distance of dredge machines from the shoreline must not be less than 500m. A single dredge machine will only be allowed per stockpiling site. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Bathymetric/Sand Search Reports are vital prerequisites for dredging permits.”



The Chinese dredge system, the Authority said would phased out two years from now. At the moment, the system would accommodated only if it  comprises of one master dredge machine, three transporters and one booster pump device. HSE (Health, Safety and Environment) standards would also be given top priority and enforced.



Engr. Mu'azu Sambo, NIWA Lagos Area Manager

Engr. Mu’azu Sambo, NIWA Lagos Area Manager

Top on the reasons for which dredge operations had been banned in Lagos was environmental degradation. NIWA, moving in as the regulatory agency provided these new guidelines to check the obvious lapses. The Authority’s Area Manager, Lagos State, Engr. Mu’azu Sambo said it is the responsibility of  operators to protect the environment , the shoreline inclusive. He disclosed that the abuse  stemmed from an  influx of illegal dredge operators in Lagos.



For example, on the stretch of Badore-Ajah road, NIWA in December 2015, uncovered 24 dredging sites located, in many cases, less than 500 metres apart from each other. The Authority seeking to sanitise the sector and to enforce best practice issued a directive demanding that companies obtained operational licenses by March 24, 2016 or get penalized. Three months after the deadline, only six companies had complied. 18 defaulters on the stretch of one road!  In a show of force, they were all shut down a fortnight ago.



The Olumegbon of Ajah, Chief Fatai Lawal Olumegbon during the meeting  urged NIWA to live up to its promise to regulate and monitor compliance in the sector.  He added that illegal operators had caused so much environmental hazard and  accidents which have claimed lives and property.



Mr. Ayo Abiodun, the Managing Director, Odun Environmental Ltd,  said the Nigerian dredging terrain is challenged because the EIA is yet to be wholly implemented. He however commended NIWA for being proactive in identifying the environment as a critical aspect of dredging. Abiodun emphasised the need to uphold best practice by ensuring that operators to get an EIA done before any dredge activity takes place as  is done all over the world.



His words; “A lot of companies involved in dredging seem to complain about the financial cost of following due process that is, doing EIA which would prevent some of these feasible issues. This should not be allowed. If these things are identified, it actually reduces the overall cost that could arise in future.”



Abiodun urged NIWA to also focus on educating operators on the importance of the EIA and the impact of dredging activities on the environment.



On his part, Mr. Istafanus Malgwi, the General Manager, NIWA Zone ‘B’,  also present at the meeting described the Authority’s  intervention as timely and a show of its absolute control over the use of waterways nationwide.He also disclosed that the same intervention will be replicated in other states of the federation.



As the Lagos Area office also gears up for another showdown in the Sangotedo and Badagry areas of the state where a number of dredging activities are allegedly done without the requisite approvals, it is evident that it is really no longer be business as usual.


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