Invasion: Peace returns between Anambra government, sand miners

After the alleged invasion of their sand beaches by men of Operation Clean and Healthy Anambra State ( OCHA) Brigade, on Thursday February 1, 2024, Sand Miners Association of Anambra State have made peace with Anambra State government for better working relationship.

During the alleged invasion, some of the equipment of the sand miners were allegedly seized by the operatives of the OCHA Brigade, while sand miners pitches were invaded and sealed.

The Anamhra State Ministry of Environment and their Petroleum and Mineral Resources counterpart had accused the sand miners of using their activities to damage the newly constructed Niger Street Road, Fegge, Onitsha.

The ministries also accused the Sand miners of carrying out illegal sand mining activities, a claimed that the leadership of OCHA Brigade who paraded their arrested workers in Awka, also gave as the basis for their invasion of the sand beaches.

However, during the peace and collaboration meeting which held at Top Ranks Hotel Onitsha, attended by State Commissioner for Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Chief Anthony Ifeanya, State Commissioner for Environment Dr Felix Odinegwu, on one side, Chairman of sand miners in Anambra State, Chief Chris Mbaegbu, his Deputy Chief Desmond Onyekpu on the other side.

Also in attendance in the meeting were a member of the Board of Trustees of the association, Chief Damian Onyekachi, legal adviser of the association, Chief Arinze Azubigo, other members of the executive of the association.

The meeting which initially started with tempers of members of the sand miners rising, following what they termed as ‘wrongly directed attacks and intimidation of their members for offense they did not commit” was made conducive for both parties.

The two Commissioners who presided over the meeting apologized to the sand miners on behalf of the OCHA Brigade, whose Chairman Mr Anere was absent from the meeting.

Chief Mbaegbu, while speaking during the meeting, told the Commissioners that their members were appropriately licensed to operate by Federal Ministry of Environment and the National Inland Waterway Authority’ (NIWA), and therefore, cannot be branded illegal miners like the OCHA Brigade operatives did.

He also disclosed that their sand beaches were wrongly invaded and some of their equipment destroyed, while others were seized, for an offense allegedly committed by some tipper drivers who have continued to disobey the directive of both the government and the association not to overload their vehicles.

Legal adviser of the association, Chief Arinze Azubigo, regretted that the government which he and his clients worked so hard to enthrone could authorize such invasion without notice to his clients.

Azubogu, regretted that during the invasion one of his clients workers who out of fear on the manner of the invasion, jumped into the River Nigerband was still missing till date and his family has been on the neck of his clients.

He wondered why his clients have not received similar treatment from the Federal Ministry of Environment and NIWA, who gave them all the required licenses, including Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) permission result, with which they operate, but were treated shabbily by State government they paid huge amount of taxes to.

Speaking respectively, the two Commissioner said they were aware of the invasion, but could not stop OCHA Brigade from carrying out the work given to them by government and the law that created it.

Dr Odimegwe confirmed that the invasion followed the report that the activities of the miners and tipper drivers were damaging the newly constructed Niger Street Road.

The Commissioner for Environment, Chief Ifeanya, on his part appealed to the sand miners to cooperate with the state government to fish out those destroying the roads now that it has been made known that they were not responsible for the offense.

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