Threatened by the danger posed by erosion, which is about to swallow their homes and business centres, residents of Alor, Nanka and other communities in Anambra State cry out, ‘save our soul, we live in fear of death’
Residents of villages in Idemih South, Alor, hometown of Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, Awka, the state capital and other communities in Anambra State have been gripped by fear and anxiety as gullies and landslides, caused by the seven-day rain, ravage their roads, houses crops, and economic trees.
Among the people worst hit by the erosion were the residents of Umubelu, Orofia, Ogbogwu and three other constituent villages of Okebunoye, where persistent heavy rains have in the recent months wrecked havoc, causing most parts of the long-stretch of concrete drainage/flood channel that runs across several villages to collapse, thereby creating deep gullies and expanding landslides which have cut-off roads and are now on the verge of swallowing residential houses and shops.
The people in the affected communities are now living in fear and apparently hopeless as the problem is beyond their capacity to handle. According to the findings of our correspondent, other hard-hit areas in Okebunoye, Alor, include the lands/areas surrounding the Saint John Science and Technical College, down to the bridge along the Abatete Road, where there are erosion sites that have created deep gullies that posed serious danger to the people.
The damages, which erosion is causing in Okebunoye, Alor is expanding everyday, the extent that the residents have started to cry out over their plight, with a save-our soul message to the state government.
Among the people who spoke to our correspondent on the vexing erosion problem in Alor, particularly Okebunoye, include a member of Onyekwelu family, whose chain of shops along Abatete Road, opposite St. Mark’s Anglican Church Road, are now in danger of being swallowed by the expanding landslides and gullies arising from the collapsed long-stretch of drainage gutter. The woman, who identified herself as a member of Onyekwelu family and who runs a provision store in one of the shops, said the problem was made worse by the recent seven-day rain which pulled down the concrete drainage gutter/slabs, exposing the red soil.
And the Secretary of Okebunoye Village/Quarters, Udoagwa M.C (a.k.a M.C Original), who also spoke to our correspondent, gave an insight into the problem. He said: “Yes we have erosion problem and it is a big erosion problem and before the river, which is in the village and the boundary between Alor and Abatete, there is a services erosion there which was about cutting the road and we cried to the state government which came and did some works, which were not enough as the problem is still persisting. At the EEDC step-down Area along St. John School Road, the problem there is too bad,” adding that the gutter situated at Michael Udoagwa areas have been pulled down by rampaging flood, exposing most compounds to danger.
He spoke on the magnitude of the problem in Okebunoye and their capacity to handle the crisis, saying: “The magnitude of damage here is beyond what the village/community can handle. We want the state government to come to our assistance, because if not tackled now, it will be a bigger problem in future. What is required now is a flyover in that river area where there is a bridge to allow free flow of flood waters and vehicular movement.”
Furthermore, Uche, a member of Okunwa family of Ebenese, Okebunoye, who were among the victims of the looming disaster and whose compound wall together with the houses in it, domiciled behind the long-stretch of concrete flood channels, said that they are now in serious danger as the flood channels are now collapsing, causing deep gullies and landslides that are expanding rapidly, eating land, trees and economic crops along its way.
She spoke on the magnitude of the problem they are facing,especially as it affects residents of Okebunoye, contending: “We have erosion problem, there is one between Umubelu and Ide, it started when we were young and Ronasco Construction Company worked on it in the eighties and this year, the problem grew bigger and the fence of houses are collapsing, we want the government to help us, because no individual or firm can handle it.”
Also reacting, Mrs. Jane Okunwa was full of anxiety as she spoke about the danger their entire compound is facing in the light of the expanding landslide.
81-year-old Mrs Okunwa, the key member of Okunwa family said, “It was small before and it was the seven-days-rain that got the problem worse and the entire thing began collapsing to the point that my house is now in danger. I’m afraid that any day soon, our house will fall into the big gully and my blind husband and I will be buried alive. We are calling on the government to come to our assistance, it is a big problem. We live in fear.”
The situation is also bad for residents of Nodu; Okpuno, Awka stretching from the Tipper Drivers Park Area, where erosion has created long-stretch of deep gullies and landslides that have cut off houses from their entrance gates and some of the houses have been overgrown by weeds and are now inaccessible. Although, the state government has began construction work on the access road there, the problem still persists as the topography of the entire area, which are sloppy in nature, exposes the landscape and the entire houses/compounds to the danger of flood and gully erosion.
And in Awka the capital city,those residing in the Umuike,Amachalla and Amudo villages, respectively, have been regularly exposed to the danger posed by gullies and landslides arising from the erosion menance in those areas. Although, the problem in Amachalla and Amudo villages, especially the erosion site behind Festus Guest House, has been resolved through the intervention of the World Bank assisted Nigerian Erosion Watershed Management Project in partnership with Anambra State Government, the deep gully and craters arising from erosion menance still persist in the Amachalla areas stretching from the old Enugu Road down to the APGA State headquarters. The recent seven days rain washed away compound walls and shops in the Umuike areas where there is a deep gully that stretches very long up to the boundary areas with Nibo community.
In Nanka, its an ugly sight to behold as residents are still allegedly fleeing their houses for fear that their houses could collapse into the expanding deep gullies that litter the entire community, particularly those in Ifite, Nanka. It should be noted that Nanka has a notorious erosion site which was declared a national disaster that has forced many residents of the village where it is located to move to other safe places. In Anambra State, almost all communities are affected by one form of erosion problem or the other, to the extent that there are about 500 gully erosion sites spread across different communities. The situation is also very bad in Oko and Ekwulobia, Uke, Uga, and Nnewi among others, where lots of residential areas and shops are being damaged by the ravaging gullies and landslides that were created by erosion caused by heavy rain falls. So far, in all the affected communities, the residents have called on both the state and Federal Governments to come and rescue them and save their lives from imminent extinction.
Successively, over the years, the Government of Anambra State, including the current administration of Chief Willie Obiano have committed resources and money towards ameliorating erosion problems in various communities. The Obiano administration had in the 2017 budget committed the sum of about N2billion for environmental improvement and more than N24billion for road projects.
The dtate government has been partnering with the Nigerian Erosion and Watershed Management Project in tackling erosion problems in Awka and other communities in Anambra State, with active erosion sites. During the Peter Obi administration, the state government was tackling erosion menace in Umuchiani, Ekwulobia, Umueze Uga, Adazi-Nnukwu, Ebenebe and Sacamori, Okpoko, Onitsha South, Nanka through Rhino Construction Company,
Recently,the Obiano administration signed an agreement with two firms for erosion control work on six erosion sites spread across Enugwu-Ukwu, Umuoji ,Nnewichi and the value of the entire contract sum is about N9 billion. Among the companies involved in project include,the MCC which was expected to handle erosion sites at Nkpor flyover and Obosi with completion period of 24 months.It was learnt that the erosion projects contract which also involved a Chinese firm were been executed by Anambra State government in partnership with the World Bank, Federal Government and the Federal Ministry of Environment. So far, the World Bank assisted Nigerian Erosion Watershed Management Project it learnt has been involved in the handling of about ten erosion control projects in Awka, Ogidi and Obosi,among others.
Meanwhile, when he was contacted to give an insight on the extent the state government has gone in confronting erosion problems in Anambra State, the Commissioner for Environment, Mike Okonkwo refused to speak. He said: “I have been reacting on the issue several times and today is my visiting day and several people are in my office.”
Similarly, efforts made to get the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, James Eze to speak on government’s current anti erosion projects were abortive as he did not answer his call.
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