The Commissioner for Environment and Mineral Resources, Dr. Iniobong Essien has ordered dredging companies engaged in indiscriminate sand dredging and evacuation activities in the state to stop operations forthwith.
Dr. Essien, who issued the order last Monday after a meeting with regulators and dredging companies at the Ministry’s headquarters in Uyo, stressed the need for a template to guide the regulators and companies on dredging activities in the State.
Expressing worry over the infiltration of about 22 dredging companies in Nsit Ubium Local Government Area without due consultation with the State Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, the Commissioner emphasised that the companies must comply with the due process of registration formalities before they commence operations.
Dr. Essien said the Ministry will visit other local government areas in the State to sensitize dredging companies on the legal environmental requirements.
He recalled that in 2013, a memo on unauthorized dredging activities was forwarded to the immediate past Governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio and a Committee set up to deter or clamp down unauthorised or indiscriminate sand mining operators in the State.
The Permanent Secretary, Mr. Effiong Charles Udo lamented that the activities of some operators did not conform with laid-down environmental rules and regulations, saying that the unpatriotic behaviour of such companies engaging in indiscriminate mining activities subject the government to ridicule.
Mr. Jude Ogbue of National Inland Waterways Agency (NIWA) advocated a single treasury account for the regulators for a proper management of incomes accruing from dredging activities.
He stressed that his organization recognizes Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as a veritable tool for the management of the environment as stipulated by NIWA act cap number 47 LFN 2004 part III Section 10-12 as against Environmental Management Plan (EMP) proposed by the Ministry.
On his part, Mr. Anthony Oku Edet, from the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel, owners of solid minerals, said royalties are collected by them while 30 per cent of the royalties are paid to the State Government.
Mr. Joseph Okon, Director of Mineral Resources in the Ministry informe the gathering that the Ministry had inaugurated a committee comprising National Inland Waterways Agency (NIWA), Federal Ministry of Mine and Steel and Federal Ministry of Environment to check indiscriminate mining and evacuation in the State.