Illegal dredging and
sand excavation is fast becoming a major source of employment for thousands of youths across the Niger Delta and the rest of the country.
For instance, in Rivers State Investigation revealed that these illegal activities are going on in places such as Etche, Oyigbo, Abuloma in Port Harcourt city Local Government Council and across the riverine local government areas of the state.
The Tide could not stumble on regulations guiding the activities of those engage in this act.
It is also interesting to note that apart from the fact that this situation is being carried out by across section of youths with little or no knowledge of its impacts on the environment, some how multinational corporations are engaged in it.
At the Otamiri river in Etche Local Government Area The Tide spotted large dredgers probably owned by some politicians.
Also in places like Abuloma, some youths and corporations are competing over ownership of dredging sites.
But the question being asked across the state is whether, there are some forms of approvals or regulations concerning these dredging activities.
When The Tide sought the views of the immediate past Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Nyema Weli, on the issue, he declined comment and directed the reporter to see the permanent secretary of the ministry who was also not available as at the time of filing this report.
The Tide later learnt from the officer incharge of the department of marine pollution in the ministry that the issue of regulation has been contracted out to consultant.
But The Tide could not trace the identity and whereabouts of this consultant.
However, stakeholders are expressing deep concern over the activities of illegal dredging activities in the state.
Some of those who responded to text messages on the issue, decried the activities of illegal dredging, contending that dredging in whatever form ought to be preceded with an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Programme
They noted that, the absence of EIAs on the situation across the state have made the occupation to pose greater dangers to impacted communities.
The stakeholders also regretted the lack of concern on the situation by the authorities, adding that “in situation like this, there will be absence of standard and uniformity” as far as the occupation is concerned.
According to them, impacted communities, must rise up and demand for standard to save their areas from environmental degradation.
The state Director of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) Mr. Oliver Wollugbom was the first to respond to the text message on the issue.
In his response, Mr. Wollugbom said that therewas need for the authority to ensure that all dredging activities conform to acceptable standard, inline with international best practices.
The Director also regretted the lukewarm attitude being paid to the issue by those incharged.
“Government should ensure that all dredging activities conform to the standard practice, while following all the laws.
“It is unfortunate that, those entrusted with the responsibility to report and enforce our laws don’t carry out their jobs.
“We must ensure that, our environment is not damaged or polluted” he said.
Professor Mark Anikpo, an erudite scholar and a lecturer at the University of Port Harcourt, particularly decried the absence of Environmental Impact Assessments on dredging in Rivers State and parts of the Niger Delta, adding that this was responsible for the lack of information on environmental and human tragedies of dredging across the region.
Professor Anikpo said that the new Administrations of president Muhammudu Buhari and the governors of the various Niger Delta states must as a matter of urgency set out modalities for dredging and sand excavation in the region.
“It should conduct a pre-impact assesment of dredges that will provide information on the enormous human tragedy involved in such dredging activities” Prof Anikpo said.
On his part, the state coordinator of Rivers Sanitation Marhalls, Prince Sodin Akiagba, said that various communities in the state are being exposed to erosion and pollution as a result of illegal dredging activities.
He also condemned the activities of timber dealers, adding that the continous destruction of Rivers Rain Forests by timber dealers is exposing the environment to danger.
Prince Akiaba also stressed the need for the authorities to not only make the laws on this situation, but enforce their compliance .
“We need a government with strong political will to save our environment from destruction, we need an Environmental Impact Assesment (EIA) before people go into dredging activities.
“Our government must be ready to prohibit illegal dredging, no matter who is involved” he said.
On his part, the Public Relations Officer of the Movement for the survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) Mr. Buriara Kpalap, said that the government should first and for most guide the coastline very well to check the activities of illegal dredgers.
Mr. Kpalap said that this is necessary as the communities are disempowered to do it, adding that, whoever that is caught in this nefarious act must be made to face the wrath of the law to serve as deterrent to others.
Other stakeholders who also reacted to the messages expressed the same sentiments.
However, as the new administration comes on board, the challenges are indeed enormous and there must be clearly defined policies to tackle these problems. The people are unanimous on this.
Dead Fishes:Environment Groups Demand Palliatives For Bonny Residents
Two environment groups in Nigeria, the Bonny Environment Consultant Committee (BECC) and the Association of Environmental Lawyers of Nigeria, have decried the devastating impact of the massive dead fishes floating along the Bonny coastline in Rivers State which they say have destroyed economic lives of the inhabitants of the area, with a call for the provision of palliatives to them.
The groups which made their position known in separate interviews with The Tide in Port Harcourt said it was not enough to unravel the causes of the dead fishes on the coastline but that there was the need to provide palliatives to the people whose livelihoods have been adversely affected by the ugly incident.
The Chairman of Bonny Environment Consultant Committee, Prof. Sodeinye Abere, who described the incident as disturbing, said on confirming the veracity of the massive dead fishes on the Bonny coastline, his committee directed the people to stop harvesting, buying and eating fishes for now, thereby temporarily putting on hold their means of livelihoods.
According to him, “the stench of the dead fishes alone is very, very disturbing. Ordinarily, the coastline dwellers enjoy the cosy breeze that comes in and refreshes their bodies. It is no more the case. More than that, with the Coronavirus issue restricting people’s movement, again, the ordinary Bonny man can go behind of his house at the creek and fetch fish to subsist with, but he cannot do that any more. The economic load now would be so much on the ordinary natives.”
To cushion the effects of this seeming disruption of the people’s socio-economic wellbeing, Prof. Abere said there was the need to provide palliatives to them. “Palliative measures are also solicited because our people waiting to die of Coronavirus should be alive first”, he said.
He pointed out that there was also the need not to only investigate the circumstances surrounding the dead fishes but also the physiochemical properties of the water where the fishes live, stressing that if not properly handled, the situation can become a pandemic in Nigeria.
On his part, the President of the Association of Environmental Lawyers of Nigeria, Dr Samuel Chisa Dike said the body was disturbed by the development and urged the Federal Government to treat the issue the same way it is treating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dike, an Associate Professor of Energy and Environment Law at the Rivers State University, stressed the need for critical stakeholders to work together to address the issue.
“ You never can tell who has consumed this specie of fishes since one month now. And we want to be sure that government is sensitised about it, because there is the tendency to tell the people about the danger of consuming the fishes but another thing is what happens to their economic lives?”, he queried.
By: Donatus Ebi
COVID-19: Man O’ War Distributes Hand Sanitisers To Eneka Residents
The Rivers State Command of the “Man O’ War” Nigeria has distributed thousands of hand sanitisers to residents of Eneka and other communities in the Obio/Akpor Local Government Area.
The State Commandant of the paramilitary organisation, Barrister Dignity N. Nwieke, told newsmen during a sensitisation programme on the coronavirus pandemic in Eneka that, the move was to complement the effort of the State Government at checking the spread of the disease to the state.
Barrister Nwieke said the sensitisation programme which started in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area will be taken round the 23 local government areas.
According to him, as a responsible organisation the Man O’ War will not wait for the Rivers State Government to shoulder the burden of checking the spread of the disease alone, stressing that the organisation must play its part in ensuring that Rivers State is coronavirus free.
The State Commandant also called on other organisations and agencies to assist the state governor towards combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Governor Wike is trying. He needs the support of everybody to succeed,” he said.
Nwieke also called on the people of Eneka and other communities to maintain the highest level of personal hygiene, by washing their hands regularly with soap and running water, avoiding handshakes and keeping their environment clean.
He also called for support to the paramilitary organisation.
Some beneficiaries of the hand sanitisers commended the organisation for the gesture.
RSG Probes Causes Of Dead Fishes As Andoni Communities Raise Alarm Over Likelihood Of Epidemic
The Rivers State Government says it will investigate the incident of thousands of dead fishes along the Bonny and Andoni coastal waterways.
The State Commissioner for Environment, Dr Igbikis Tamuno, said this in a press release while reacting to reports of floating dead fishes along the Bonny and Andoni waterways.
The release signed by the Commissioner, Dr Igbikis Tamuno said the government will investigate the cause of the dead fishes.
The Commissioner also urged indigenes of coastal communities both in Bonny and Andoni not to eat the dead fishes.
Meanwhile, residents of some coastal communities in Andoni Local Government Area have alleged the presence of thousands of dead fishes along the Andoni River.
According to the residents, thousands of dead fishes are being washed ashore by Atlantic waves.
Speaking in an interview with The Tide, a resident of Muma community, Engr Joshua Ngo said the area may experience an epidemic if the decaying fishes are not properly buried.
Engr Ngo, also said, multinational companies operating in the area are denying being responsible for the incident.
According to him, the incident has deprived fishermen of their sources of livelihood as the entire coast stretching from Muma to Finima in Bonny Local Government Area has been polluted.
The community leader also called for the entire coastal environment of Andoni stretching from Oyorokoto to Ibot-Okpon Obolo to be fumigated in order to save the communities from epidemic.
Ngo also called for the communities to be compensated with relief materials.
Also speaking, the Chairman, Community Development Committee (CDC), Ngo mainland, Mr Clement Clement Sunday, called on the government to act urgently as hunger may force the people to feed on the dead fishes.
Sunday also told The Tide that all oil companies operating in the Andoni territorial waters have denied responsibility for the dead fishes.
“We have contacted companies operating in the area and they said they don’t know what caused the death of the fishes.
According to him, more than 20 communities in the coastal environment are on the verge of starvation as the decaying fishes have polluted the entire source of water source.
“I want to call on the government to come to the aide of the communities as the decaying fishes are all over the water surface.
“Hunger is looming,” he said.
Meanwhile, an Environmentalist, Mr Iniruo Wills, has urged the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), to probe the cause of death of fishes along the Niger Delta coastline.
Wills, in an interview with newsmen in Yenagoa, noted that dead fishes littered the coastline across Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers States.
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