By Jude Njoku
…Project saved VI from extinction, insist LASG, developers
Issues bordering on coastal erosion, the development of the multi-billion dollar Eko Atlantic City Project, demolition of shanties along the coastline and enforcement of environmental laws took the centre stage at a roundtable in Lagos last week.
The roundtable which drew environmentalists and officials of the Federal and Lagos State Governments as well as South Energy X Limited, developers of the model city, was convened by Messrs Heinrich Boll Stiftung in Nigeria in conjunction with Community Conservation Development Initiative, CCDI and Environmental Law Research Institute, ELRI..
Those who addressed the one-day roundtable with the theme: Sustainability of Coastal Environments: The uncertainties and risks of infrastructural development at the Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research, NIOMR, in Victoria Island, included the Lagos State Commissioner for Waterfront and Infrastructure Development, Prince Adesegun Oniru, the Managing Director of South Energy X, Mr David Frame and officials of the Federal Ministry of Environment, FME. who made submissions to justify the development of Eko Atlantic City.
But environmentalists led by a law teacher at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Mrs M.T. Okorodudu -Fubara and Prof Larry Awosika of NIOMR, picked holes in the Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA and development of the city.
The EIA which was done by a Dutch Marine Engineering Company, Messrs Royal Haskoning, was allegedly submitted to the FME in 2011 when land reclamation for the project started as far back as 2008. Okorodudu-Fubara who informed that the Federal Government has withdrawn the draft EIA to the project because of a lot of reservations, insisted that the scheme does not presently have an EIA.
But the South-Energy X boss who debunked the allegations, claimed that Victoria Island would have become extinct by now if the company did not embark upon the development of the highbrow city sited at the heart of the Atlantic ocean.
He stated that prior to the commencement of the project, Ahmadu Bello Way and other adjourning streets in Victoria Island were always flooded, but noted that this scenario is no longer the case since work commenced on the development of Eko Atlantic.
Mr. Frames’ views were faulted by many stakeholders including Evangelist Yemi Okunyemi who alleged that they were forcibly evicted from their homes near the Bar-Beach to pave way for the development of Eko Atlantic City; Mr. Gbenga Okusnaya of the Ocean Surge Committee in Goshen Beach Estate who claimed that coastal erosion peaked at the highbrow estate when the development of Eko Atlantic began and Mr. Felix Muorka of SERAC, (an NGO) who picked holes with the City’s EIA. He also disagreed with the manner the State sacked residents of Makoko, a waterfront shanty in the Yaba area.of the city.
Reacting to the allegations, Prince Oniru said the State Government unveiled plans by the state Government to roll out a holistic solution to the coastal erosion problems currently ravaging the “centre of excellence”. Details of the panacea which is expected to solve the coastal erosion problems being experienced by coastal communities, would be unfolded in the next few weeks.
The Commissioner faulted Evangelis Okunyemi’s claims that they were forcibly evicted. He noted that the displaced residents of Bar-Beach were sent packing because the original owners of the land -the Federal Government and the Fisheries Department, wanted to take possession of their property.
He recalled previous attempts by the State to compel the occupants of the shanties to vacate the beach and explained that their eviction became very necessary following a very bad fire incident in the neighbourhood. He insisted that the eviction was not done to pave way for the development of Eko Atlantic.
On the flooding of Goshen Beach Estate, the Commissioner alleged that the developer of the highbrow estate, defied the orders of the State Government and built on alignments very close to the Ocean. That not withstanding, the government, Prince Oniru said, has taken proactive measures to ensure that the residents of the highbrow estate are not displaced by coastal erosion or ocean surge.
He took a swipe at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety agency, NIMASA, for not doing its work to rid the coastline around Maiyegun and Alpha Beach of abandoned vessels and ship wreaks.