By Nweke Nweke, Onitsha
Reports from Anambra State said aggrieved youths in Atani Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State, numbering over one hundred yesterday took to the street of Atani chanting war songs and making burn fire in protest over an alleged plan by an Onitsha based Business mogul to import heavy duty excavating machine to dredge sand in the bank of the River Niger near Umudike village Atani.
247urpeopts.com gathered that the trouble started when the businessman, Chief Gilbert Obi popularly known as Bravo approached the community and the traditional ruler of the town, HRH, Igwe Augustine Ngoddy and presented approval of the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Mines and Power, authorizing him to excavate sand from the edge of Ohita to the edge of Akiliozizo at 2.8kilo range on an average number of 14 Cadastre.
According to Chief Obi, what he imported was a 4inches dredger which has been examined by the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority and certified suitable for the dredging in the area, pointing out that the agitation of the youths in the area was a share jealousy orchestrated by his business rivals.
He alleged that one man popularly called Japan in the town masterminded the protest and eventually led the youths to the Beach and destroyed dredging equipments, pipes laid and diesel excavating machines worth millions of naira and through some of the equipments inside the River Niger, but expressed optimism that the police at Atani is investigating the matter.
He said he applied to the Federal Government for the award of contract and got approval and has also paid all the necessary fees, passing through the Ministry of Mines and Power, Nigerian Inland Waterways, Anambra State Government, Ogbaru Local Government and Atani Community approval and wondered why he should be treated so.
When contacted, the traditional ruler of Atani, Igwe Augustine Ngoddy (Ezeogwike II of Atani Kingdom) corroborated what Chief Obi said, pointing out that his palace is aware of the contact awarded him by the Federal and Anambra State government and they are not opposed to it.
His word, “the issue of Bravo and our youth over excavation of sand in our beach was that Bravo and his group properly applied to excavate sand at about 2.8kilometer through the Federal Ministry of Mines Abuja and Awka. He also passes through Nigerian Inland Waterway processes and was given licenses to operate”.
“Unfortunately there are citizens of Atani who have been there for years dredging the sand illegally without getting the proper licenses, these illegal miners who does not have documents to operate are now disturbed because those who have the legal certificate has come to take over their means of livelihood.
To press home their litigation, they alleged that the machines brought in by the Bravo Company are two big and will cause erosion encroachment to their village, even as they forgot that they are not expert in marine business so as to determine whether it will cause erosion or not. More so, experts in marine business contacted said the protesting people of the community have forgotten that they have been mining the sand for so many years without paying anything to the Federal Government, Anambra State Government, Ogbaru Local Government or Atani Community”.
“They are illegal miners and my town is on the side of the man who is doing things through the legal way. My throne will not support illegality, and beside the company will empower our people against those who have been mining it for years illegally without any benefit”. “I hate to see them being regularly sensitizing youths and others to support those who has nothing to offer to the community.
The officer of the Federal Government has been invited to come and explain to the community that the machines had been examined and certified normal for the job”, Igwe concludes.
When our correspondent visited the site angry looking young men were seen around the Beach waiting for the last to happen. A young man who did not want his name disclose said, the Federal Government gave contract to the man but the machine he brought in is likely to cause aggressive erosion encroachment adding that the Umudike village where the beach is located are living a few metres away from the River Niger and any further dredge with such equipment would spell doom for the inhabitant.
According to him the Managing Director of the Company Chief Obi is from a nearby town and knows how prone to erosion their community is because they living in the bank of the river and they have no other place to go.
“We are not mining the sand illegally as expressed by Igwe Ngoddy, because the owner of the Beach called Asaba Sand and Stone has his license too”, the source contended.
According to him, they are not against his mining as they are not opposed to the Federal and State Government but he should use other smaller machines being use throughout the Area for dredging saying that Ochuche, Ogbakuba and Odekpe Community had earlier rejected the machine to operate in their area.
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