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Soludo, FG Flex Muscle Over Control of Activities at Onitsha Sand Beach

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By Izunna Okafor, Awka

What could be best described as muscle flexing of muscle is currently playing out between the Governor Chukwuma Soludo-led Anambra State Government and the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) in the state over the control of activities at the sand mining beach at the Niger Street, Fegge, in Onitsha South Local Government Area of the State.

This is coming as the Federal Government agency, NIWA, reportedly went and unsealed the said mining beach just shortly after it was sealed by a State Government team led by the Transition Committee Chairman for the Onitsha South Local Government Area, Hon. Emeka Orji.

It was gathered that the Anambra State Government sealed the beach starting from the Ugo Foam Industry down to the Freedom (Biafra) Market culvert in Fegge after the miners allegedly violated some directives and disobeyed some warnings it earlier gave to them regarding their operation in the area.

According to an eyewitness, Alaeze Chimee, miners at the sand beach had been advised to always cover their tippers very well and avoid overloading sands in the tippers to forestall sands from pouring on the road, “thereby causing damage on the newly-constructed Niger Street Road, Fegge and other places in the L.G.A.”

He said there had also been several efforts made by the government through meetings with the sand beach miners and tipper drivers loading sands at the bank of River Niger, on the need to ensure that environmental laws and safety are strictly obeyed.

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“Despite the several meetings and efforts so far made, the sand beach miners continued unabated, with their illegal activities of pouring sands on the roads, thereby causing nuisance and environmental hazards.

“The drainages in some parts of the council area had been blocked by sands from the sand miners and tipper drivers.

“Also, with the added load of sands from tippers, the dumping of sands on the already Asphalted Roads across the LGA is a major source of concern to other road users,” he wrote.

This, he said, made the Onitsha South TC Chairman, Hon. Orji, to lead a team of some government personnel, OCHA Brigade and security agents, to go and seal off the site.

However, Chimee, in a trending video also announced that barely 30 minutes after the site was sealed off by the state government, staff of the Federal Government-owned NIWA led some military men to go an unseal the it.

“In a twist, a NIWA official with the team of Army personnel arrived the scene with complaints of trying to meet with the LGA Chairman to iron out the issues. The Chairman told them to come to his office if they had anything against the directive of the state government, not on the field.

“The NIWA official went off, only to go and unseal the sand mining sites without the knowledge of the Council boss —the sites which had already been sealed on the order of Anambra State Governor, Prof Charles Chukwuma Soludo.

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“On getting information that the NIWA official with his army team had unsealed the sites hitherto sealed, Mr. Chairman, Hon. Emeka Orji returned back to the sealed sites and confirmed truly that the sites had been unsealed by the NIWA official with the Army personnel.

“The Onitsha South Chairman, ordered once more, that the sand beach miners should stop their operations of sand mining instantly, in the said areas, while ordering the arrest of anyone seen on the sites from henceforth,” he wrote.

However, the Anambra State Government, on Sunday, stormed the area with bulldozer and began a massive demolition of what it described as shanties and illegal structures within the same Niger Street area, with a view to reclaim the government lands at the bank of River Niger.

This, according to reports, is a step towards fulfilment of the government’s plan to construct an Entertainment, Leisure and Fun Center at the site, for fun seekers and tourists, so as to boost the tourism sector of the state.

The demolition exercise, which was spearheaded by the Onitsha South TC Chairman, Hon. Orji, was also monitored by some security agencies and witnessed by some government officials and stakeholders in the area, including the Deputy Chairman of the Local Government Area, Mrs. Maria Okoye; the Deputy Chairman of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in the Council area, Hon. Afam Udeogalanya; the Secretary, Fegge Landlords Association in Onitsha South, Dr. Noel Nwabueze Udeoji, among others.

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