Marine sand mining: Deadly search for treasure


Auwalu, a sand miner at the Ago Palace Way Canal, Phase 2, Lagos, has just lost two of his colleagues to the Atlantic Ocean as desperate efforts to rescue them were unsuccessful. The colleagues, who hailed from Daura in Katsina State, had found their way to Okota in Lagos because of the poor living conditions in their hometown.

Uba Group

“You can see my hands with blisters as a result of sand mining. But this is how I survive. By looking at these hands, you would know that if all was well, I won’t be doing this,” Auwalu said. “Water sand mining is not an easy job at all. You can see that the baskets we use in carrying the sand are designed in a way that the water can drain out before we pour it at the designated places,” he added.

A few jobs are as hazardous as diving underwater to manually scoop sand from the bottom of the river or lagoon with the use of specially constructed tools. The ability of the diver to swim and hold his breath for the period underwater is amazing.

Although, there is a ladder by the side of the canoe to assist the diver when coming out, it takes a lot of courage and resilience to do such jobs. Another diver, who simply identified himself as Abubakar, added, “The work has a lot of wahala (tough moments). It’s unfortunate that you came at a time when we have finished scooping for the day. You will pity us if you see the condition in which we work here. Our baskets are usually filled with sand and we are expected to bring it out and pour here (pointing at a spot) as you can see.

“The job is dangerous, but we have to survive. Anyone who is weak to work or lacks the strength is always free to go. Sometimes, the police will just burst in here to raid us. But, we are always on the alert and fretful even while working.”


Abubakar, who is just one among many labourers working at the Phase 1 Ago Palace Way, Okota canal, said they were labourers trying to eke out a living under stressful conditions.

“We go down into the river with a head-pan locally constructed like a shovel to enable us scoop enough sand, as well as a ladder with which to climb out from the bottom of the river,” another sand miner, but in South East Agbor, Delta State, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said.

Stressing the hazards of the job, he said, most times, they had to dive with their legs straight down, adding that they would then scoop the sand with the head-pan before ascending with the ladder.

According to him, the sand may seem heavy in the first instance but because they had become used to it, it becomes lighter with