A Federal Taskforce set-up by the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development in conjunction with the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC); the Special Mines Surveillance Task Force (SMSTF), over the weekend clamped down on illegal sand dredgers in Lagos, arresting the managers of two sand mining companies, Knight Crown Engineering Works, and Timanj Oil & Gas for alleged illegal operation and non-payment of royalties at their dredging sites in Ibeshe area of Ikorodu, in Lagos.
While the Timanj manager was later released after the company produced a Notification of Grant, with the claim of non-operation within the period under review, and was afterwards given the appropriate bill for unpaid royalties, Knight Crown had neither quarry lease nor evidence of payment of royalties.
It will be recalled that in the ongoing clampdown on illegal operations, SMSTF had earlier on Monday, also in Ibeshe area, arrested the managers of Oretol Nigeria Limited and PNC Synergy.
Oretol later produced its operating licence but had no evidence of payment of royalties, while PNC Synergy had neither. Both were also billed accordingly and their business premises locked up until they comply.
During the inspection exercise carried out by the SMSTF, many of the illegal operators had abandoned their sites as the news of the earlier arrests spread in the area, while some workers could be seen running away on sighting the taskforce.
According to the task force, the clampdown, which followed the ministry’s recent capacity building, is in line with the Minerals and Mining Act 2007, and the Mineral and Mining Regulation of 2011, which state that no company should operate without a licence, and any operating company must pay royalties as it operates.
Speaking to Tribune Online exclusively after the raid, the Secretary-General of the Dredgers Association of Nigeria, Mr Richard Ntan alleged that only 11 of the 41 operators in the Ibeshe area have licenses and pay royalties.
According to Mr Ntan, “all the arrested dredging companies are illegal operators and are not members of the Dredges Association of Nigeria. They are all illegal dredgers once they don’t have the permission of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA). Knight Crown Engineering Works particularly has always operated illegally. They always work in the dead of the night. They have refused to belong to the Dredgers Association of Nigeria, which is the parent body of all legal dredgers in the country.”