Effort to improve quality of life in Nigerian cities and ensure environmental safety is pushing the government against inhabitants of illegal settlements/shanties. Dayo Ayeyemi writes
If the latest ranking of Lagos and Abuja as 212th and 213th out of 231 cities assessed under the 2017 Mercer Quality of Living Rankings for cities is anything to go by, Nigerian government at the federal and state levels would need to double their efforts to improve environmental condition of the cities to enhance their livability index.
This is due to the determinants used in Mercer’s survey for quality of living ranking of cities, which centered on connectivity, competitiveness, attractiveness and security.
In the latest report, Western European cities dominate top of 2017 Quality of Living Rankings, with Vienna remaining in first position for the 8th year in a row. Already, efforts are in top gear to put in place quality road infrastructure in Abuja and ensure cleaner Lagos.
However, plan by the government to improve the rating of the city on quality of living ranking and rid it of environmental nuisance and insecurity is pushing the authorities against occupants of illegal settlements and shanties in the metropolis.
While authorities in Abuja are not resting to ensure the city fits into its status as Nigeria’s capital, Lagos is renewing fight against shanties. Commenced from Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Lekki neighbourhoods on the island to other locations, especially government’s housing estates in Ipaja, Isolo and Amuwo- Odofin, the authorities have already taken the battle to waterfront communities in Eti-Osa Local Government where it demolished what it termed “illegal shanties and unwholesome habitation” around Ilado and seafront areas beside Freedom Road in Lekki, Lagos. Since the demolition, affected residents and nongovernmental organisations have been condemning the government’s action.
The inhabitants of Otodo- Gbame have condemned the ongoing demolition of houses and destruction of their properties by the state government. One of the residents, Celestine Ahisu, said they were shocked by the demolition as they had not been served notice of demolition by the state government. He said that it was the second time in five months that houses in the community would be demolished.
Another, Sera Inagija, told New Telegraph that there was court judgment restraining the government from embarking on demolition of the community, saying that the authorities flouted the order.
Also, Amnesty International (AI) has condemned the government’s action, which has rendered many inhabitants of the community homeless. AI described it as a violation of the right of the people.
“Thousands, who live at Otodo Gbame, have right to housing. Their humanity is being violated by rendering them homeless. Forced eviction of Otodo Gbame community violates court ruling,” the agency said in a tweet.
Justifying the action of government, Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Steve Ayorinde, said that no court judgment was flouted in the demolition of Otodo-Gbame According to him, the Ministry of Environment’s action was carried out in order to forestall an environmental disaster and another round of deadly conflicts that led to razing of the community last November.
Ayorinde said that the government’s action was informed by overriding public interest to ensure that the waterfront area is free from environmentally, injurious and unsanitary habitation few months after it was consumed by fire and rendered uninhabitable.
According to a statement, the Otodo Gbame community is one of the 39 claimant communities that had commenced action to enforce their fundamental rights pursuant to Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009 before Onigbanjo. J of Lagos Division of the High Court of Lagos State in Suit No. LD/4232MFHR/2016..AKAKPO & 38 ORS vs. AG L/S & 3 ORS.
It added, however, that the trial judge did not deliver judgment on the matter but rather referred the parties to Multi Door House for mediation. Ayorinde said: “The leave granted to enforce their rights was tantamount to an order of status quo ante bellum on the parties, which amongst other things required that the claimants do not take any action within the area after it was destroyed by fire.
“The undisputed fact is that Otodo Gbame was engulfed by fire that razed down the entire community in November 2016, which rendered the area uninhabitable.” Meanwhile, a civil society organisation, Safe Habitat, has called on the Lagos State Government and relevant stakeholders in the state to show serious interest at the rate aliens from neighbouring countries and criminals fleeing other parts of the country are creating illegal settlements in some riverine communities in the state.
The group with focus on environmental safety led by its Executive Director, Ade Williams, told this newspaper that the spate of illegal settlements by aliens and criminals in the state was worrisome.
He said: “We are concerned about information reaching us that some aliens and criminals fleeing from law enforcement agencies have formed the habit of creating illegal settlements and shanties in some water front communities especially in Eti-Osa local government area of the state, where they constitute environmental nuisance and launch criminal attacks against residents of Lekki, Ikoyi, Victoria Island and others.”
Williams warned that the earlier the government and other stakeholders took decisive action against such settlements and shanties the better for the environment, lawful residents and business development of Lagos.
The group commended Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for taking similar action last year to rid Ikoyi and Victoria Island of such environmental nuisance, recalling that past government in the state had summoned same will to cleanse Kuramo beach of criminal activities in 2007 by dislodging illegal settlers erecting shanties.
Managing Partner, JIMS Partnership, Mr. Olujide Oke, also called on built environment professionals to come together to proffer workable solution to some of the challenges impacting on livability and environmental efficiency of cities and towns.
Some of the challenges, he mentioned, ranged from infrastructure decay to increasing slum settlement in city centres, poorly planned living environment, poor road networks, poor maintenance leading to dilapidated facilities and public utilities, lack of portable water supply, bad drainages and canals, poor housing, environmental pollution and poor waste management systems and flooding. According to Oke, inadequate urban planning has led to an increase in physical size of cities, higher population densities, greater demands on natural assets within cities and increased congestion.
The government needs to be proactive in its efforts to curtail creation of illegal settlements rather than being reactionary to forestall loss of lives and properties.
Nigeria’s fish deficit hits 2.2m tons
Despite smuggling and abuse of import quota restrictions, Nigeria is currently facing 2.1 million tons of fish deficit.
The Director of Federal Department of Fishery (FDF), Muazu Mohammed, said this in a chat with New Telegraph in Lagos.
He said that the country still depends on one million tons of fish annually as against the 3.2 million tons demand.
Statistically, the country’s total demand is estimated at 3.2 million tons, while it depends on 1.12 million tons of domestic production from aquaculture, artisanal and industrial fisheries.
The FDF boss added that 80 per cent of fish produced in the country are catfish, while other species account for only 20 per cent.
This newspaper gathered that the restrictions have not yielded any positive result because of abuse of quotas and large scale smuggling.
Fish farmers who spoke with this newspaper noted that some of the local farmers government was trying to protect were already out of the business due to lack of fund and other challenges.
Speaking on the development, President, Fish Processors Association of Nigeria (FPAS), Chief Wole Omole, blamed the deficit on government’s policies, which had created uncertainty in the fishery industry.
He said that some members of the association had been facing challenges of finance, debts and smuggling in the business because government had not done enough to protect their investments.
Already, Omole noted that many of the local fish farmers had closed down their fish farms since they have run into debts.
He said: “Let me say this to you, government is just paying leap service to farmers operating in the industry. Money does not get to real farmers who are willing to expand their fish ponds. Also, fish feeding is very expensive in the country. As I talk to you now, I have diverted from fishing business because the profit is not there and this has to do with the cost of feeding the fish.”
Omole explained that investors were finding it difficult to break even in the business even in the long run.
The FPAS president added that lack of political will by the Federal Government had stifled the growth and development of fishery in the country.
“Look at the importation of frozen chicken and turkey the Federal Government banned, but you still found them in the marketplace,” he noted.
According to him, importation of foreign fish, lack of capital, strong smuggling network and inadequate feeds had crippled the ambition of local farmers to meet national demand. This is why the country is facing such a huge deficit, he said.
Omole blamed government for allowing influx of fish imports into the country despite its import restriction quotas.
Echoing him, the President of Fishery Association of Nigeria (FAN), Rasaq Adefowoju, decried the high rate of smuggling and importation of fish to the country.
He said that without government assistance to local fish farmers, the current fish deficit would continue to widen.
Adefowoju also stressed the need for government to create an enabling environment for local fish farmers operating in the country.
The president added that only the solution was for government to provide a bailout fund or loan for the farmers from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to enable them embark on massive production at single digit or at six months moratorium.
Adefowoju said: “The problem with us in the association is finance. We have enough local fish farmers in the country that can produce fish but there is no financial assistance from the government.”
It would be recalled that since 2014, when the Federal Government introduced the import restriction, exporters from Norway have been finding it difficult to bring fish into the country due to lack of foreign into the country due to lack of foreign exchange to order for supply.
However, finding revealed that some fish are being smuggled through the neighbouring Cotonou Port to the country by fish merchants.
Last year, the Federal Government complained that about $700 million was spent on importation of fish into the country.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, lamented that it was no longer sustainable for government to continue to spend such huge amount of money on fish importation.
Consequently, he said that funds would be made available for research institutes to scale up research work into the local production of other fish species, aside the regular catfish and Tilapia.
The minister said: “We need to start looking inwards to see how Nigeria can produce some of these fishes both for local consumption and then importation. We will also encourage massive investment in artisanal fish production, to meet the protein needs of Nigerians, because it has been discovered that lack of protein in some women have made them to developed fibroid
Dangote: Businesses, residents lose N86bn daily to Apapa gridlock
Businesses and residents are losing N86 billion to Apapa-Wharf road gridlock daily, Africa’s richest man and President/CEO, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, has said.
He stated this in Lagos while condemning the challenges posed by traffic jam and heavy presence of different types of taskforce, including the Customs, on the major route leading to the nation’s largest port.
Dangote, who was on an inspection tour of the on-going reconstruction of N4.3 billion Apapa-Wharf road by AG Dangote recently, stated that businesses and residents are losing 20 times the project’s cost daily.
By calculation, N86 billion is being lost by business owners and residents on daily basis.
He said: “People don’t really understand how much money businesses are losing because of the gridlock here; if you quantify it in billions, it is 20 times the cost of this project every single day.”
Consequently, he urged the Federal Government to move the taskforce, including Customs, away from the route to ease traffic.
The reconstruction of the road that leads to Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports is being undertaken by Dangote Group, Nigerian Flour Mill Limited and the Nigeria Port Authority (NPA), which are together committing N4.34 billion to the project.
Justifying the involvement of his company in sponsoring the project, Managing Director, Flour Mills Limited, Paul Gbadedo, lamented that it has been difficult for businesses and residents of Apapa.
Noting that the economy of Apapa is very huge, he said that businesses cannot see the traffic and road deteriorating without doing something.
He stated that 75 to 80 per cent of imports passed through the Apapa ports, noting that the road is strategic.
Dangote stressed that it did not make any commercial sense for Customs to mount check points outside the wharf after they might have checked and certified goods at the ports.
“If there should be any more checkpoints, they should be at the toll gates, not here where they are obstructing traffic flow,” he said.
Africa’s richest man said he was impressed with the progress and quality of work being done by AG Dangote, the contractor handling the reconstruction of the road.
He also lauded the palliative work going on on Apapa Oshodi Expressway and the Trailer Park being constructed by government off the expressway, pointing out that these were efforts being made to ensure that the access roads to the ports are decongested.
“My impression of this road has changed because AG Dangote is doing a great and excellent work here. You can see the quality of work being done. This is quite impressive. Even in Germany, you cannot see this kind of quality of road. This road can last at least two generations in which case you will be talking about over 60 years. It is so solid that it can take any weight and any traffic,” Dangote said.
“I can assure you that we will double our efforts to complete the project on schedule, that is, latest by the end of June,” he said.
Chief Executive, AG Dangote, Ajif Juma, stated that the company is facing a lot of challenges, citing traffic and gas pipeline as major ones.
“But now we are working hard to ensure we finish on schedule with some of our workers on night shift,” he said.
CBN to banks: Settle customers’ complaints within 2 weeks
Deposit Money Banks ( DMBs) and other financial Institutions have been directed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to settle customers’ complaints on issues of overcharge, unauthorised deductions and other matters within two weeks.
CBN Head of Complaints management Division, Mr Tajudeen Ahmed, conveyed the Apex Bank’s directive in Abuja. He said the regulator would ensure that bank customers receive redress on issues of excess charges or unauthorised withdrawal.
Ahmed reiterated the CBN’s commitment to eradicating the culture of excess and arbitrary charges. According to him, the CBN has since issued a circular,which could be found on the its website showing all legitimate bank charges. He explained that any charge outside what is contained in the circular was not allowed and should not be charged.
“The Consumer Protection Department issued guidelines to banks dated August 16, 2011, directing all banks and other financial institutions to resolve all customer complaints within two weeks of receipt of that complaint,” he said. “Before the expiration of that complaint, the financial institution is expected to be engaging the customer on a continuous basis to update him or her on the status of the complaint. “If it is not resolved within the deadline given, then such a person is encouraged to draw the attention of Central Bank of Nigeria to find solution to that complaint.”
Ahmed enjoined customers with unresolved complaints to contact the CBN by writing to the Director Consumer Protection Department. He also advised disgruntled bank customers to visit any branch of the CBN closest to them to lay their complaints.
“The CBN continually engages the banks to find out if their conducts and practices are fair to their customers in order to stimulate people’s confidence in the banking system. “Non-adherence to that normally results to regulatory sanctions as the case may be,” he said.
Ahmed faulted banks for setting a limit on ATM withdrawals to get customers to make several withdrawals to cash large sums. “I have also observed and noted this. Don’t forget that at the beginning, it wasn’t like this. Over time, we started having this problem.
“One of the reasons is that the quantum of N500 denomination is much more than that of N1,000 denomination,” he said. “When we approached the banks about these problems, they said that the machines become easily faulty when it is set to dispense up to N30, 000 to N40, 000 units.
“However, CBN has directed that the machines that allow payment of up to N30,000 to N50,000 should be installed. “This is still ongoing. The Banking and Payment Department of the CBN is championing it.” In her remarks, Head, Consumer Protection Department, Mrs Hadija Kasim, admonished bank customers to imbibe cashless policy.
“Let’s not forget that ATM cards can also be used on Point of Sale (POS) terminals. We are encouraging people that unless it is absolutely necessary, they should reduce the carriage of cash. Cashless transactions are more convenient, safer and you will avoid the problem of overcharges,” she said. She advised bank consumers to use bank transfer channels for transactions in cases where sellers do not have POS.
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