‘NIMASA Should Rise Up to its Responsibilities’ - Adesegun Oniru, commissioner for waterfront and infrastructure development, Lagos State, speaks on the effort the Babatunde Fashola administration is making in clearing the coastline
By ARUKAINO UMUKORO
Over a year ago, you were at the erosion site and promised to deal with the problem. How far have you gone in keeping to that promise?
I was there to address the issue of (abandoned) beach vessels and we have issued contracts out to contractors to remove those vessels and the ones the owners claim they would remove themselves, they commenced work almost immediately. That is what the ministry and the state government have done so far to avert disaster. If we haven’t done that then, the situation in Alpha Beach would be worse today. All vessels that come into our ports pay their dues to the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, which also has a sister agency called NIMASA (Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency). It is NIMASA’s business to remove and attend to any beach vessel, not Lagos State government. But the state government would not sit down and see environmental disaster happening in our state and see the national boundary being eroded and not do anything about it. So, there is very little you can do as a state government when it comes to disasters like this because of the financial implications; you need the help of the federal government.
But some of the affected communities have blamed the contractors who dredge the ocean for their predicament.
Nobody is doing illegal activities in that area where these vessels are. It’s just contractors and owners of vessels pumping out the sand in order for them to remove the bottom of the vessel. Now this exercise can go on for months because once you get sand into that vessel, you are in trouble and the kind of equipment that you need to actually pull the bottom of the vessel out, very few companies in Nigeria have the capacity. So sometimes, owners abandon the bottom of their vessels because they just cannot get it out. The only way to get it out is to dredge around it and remove sand and use crane to pull it out. That is what is going on there. So for anybody to say that it is because of the dredging activity that is going on there, that is why they can’t remove it; it’s not the case.
Have you established the owners of the vessels?
Oh, definitely. All those vessels have names on them. We contact the owners, give them 14 days to remove their vessels and if they don’t we take action, because we know that NIMASA won’t do it. If you want to see a prime example of the mess that we have in Lagos State, go to Tarkwa Bay and then go to the other side called Lighthouse. As I speak, there are about 16 to 18 vessels lying there. Now to remove those vessels, you’re talking of billions of naira. Why has NIMASA not done anything? Why is it that it’s always the state government that ends up removing them? NIMASA should rise up to its responsibilities.
The Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA, of the Eko Atlantic City project has not been made public thus fuelling suspicion that the Lagos State government is withholding it so as to avoid further criticism of the project. What is the situation?
For a project of that magnitude, you don’t just have one EIA. It’s an ongoing environmental impact assessment. A lot of the so-called experts that spoke about the Eko Atlantic City and EIA are people that are looking for work. They are people that want to get involved with the project. But this project is not something that you can do locally. It is an international project. Now, with regards to EIA, it is not given by the state government. The federal government, through the federal ministry of environment, is in charge.