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Sand Dredgers Cut power To Nigerian villages

When the Lagos State Government, through the Ministry of Rural Development brought rural electrification to several riverside communities in Otto/Awori Local Council Development Area, LCDA, the villagers were overjoyed. For decades, they have been cut off from civilization with all that makes life meaningful. So, it was with great joy when electricity supply reached the communities.

Since then, these rural dwellers have been enjoying some measure of electricity. Gradually, urban life started creeping into the riverine communities until recently when a company dredging sand on the lagoon disrupted the electricity supply and plunged the locals back into darkness. The poles carrying the high tension cables were damaged by the dredgers, Red Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited.

Fifteen riverside communities were affected by this disruption and,fighting back, the locals seized the dredging machine used by the company. The massive dredging machine is still afloat on the lagoon. The Otto/Awori LCDA and the Lagos State Government have vowed that the dredging machine would not be released until the company contributes substantially to repairing the damaged high tension cables between Imude and Ido-Oluwo.

Some of the riverside villages affected are: Imude, Ido Oluwo, Shapira, Irewe, Egan Esanfi, Ojota, Ojorin, Ibode, Popokun, Itogbesa, Erekun, Okolundu and Origele. These riverine communities have remained in darkness.

Three staff of the company were arrested and handed over to the police for prosecution. But the locals are still angry with the company for plunging them into darkness and are urgently appealing to the state government to come to their aid.

P.M.NEWS Metro visited the lagoon in company of officials of the Ministry of Rural Development to assess the level of damage. Commissioner for Rural Development, Cornelius Ojelabi who led the team was appalled at the magnitude of damage done by the dredgers.
The Osolu of Osolu Kingdom, Irewe, Oba Abideen Durosinmi said the incident occurred last week and that since then, 15 riverine communities have been cut off from electricity supply.

“We are appealing to the Lagos State Government to help us repair these high tension cables destroyed by the dredgers. This is not the first time these dredgers are doing this kind of thing. We don’t have money to fix them, we want the government to help us,” he pleaded.

According to the Commissioner for Rural Development, government was concerned about the plight of the people, which was why he came with a team from the electrical department of the ministry to assess the extent of damage and see how the government could help to rectify the situation.

“Several communities are affected. In the short term, the facilities will have to be fixed so that the people can enjoy electricity again, but in the long term, there is need to construct a Crossing Tower to bring a permanent solution to the problem of disruption caused by dredgers. This is not provided for in the 2013 budget, so we cannot do it this year,” he said.

The commissioner appealed to rural communities to take charge of government projects in their domain, adding that government would enter into discussions with the dredging company to ensure that the damage repaired. He stated that “some people have been arrested. The company must contribute to remedy the situation.”

Chairman, Otto/Awori LCDA, Mr. Bolaji Kayode said the council had held a meeting with the dredging company in the past but that the company still dredges on the lagoon without the laid down procedures, adding, “we don’t know why this thing has happened again. We will not relent in our efforts. Some people have been arrested in connection with this case.

“Dredgers in this area have not been contributing anything in terms of corporate social responsibility. With what has happened, they have promised to contribute something to our area,” he stated.

Chairman, House of Assembly Committee on Energy and Waterfront, Mr. Lanre Ogunyemi lamented that the dredging company had been disrupting power supply to the area on several occasions.

“Sometime ago, a speed boat belonging to a company contributed to the drowning of several people in the area.

“There is need to curb this menace and the House is trying to ensure that the Lagos State Inland Waterways and the Ministry of Waterfront monitor the waterways to prevent incidents like this,” he said.

—Kazeem Ugbodaga

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