By LAIDE AKINBOADE, Abuja
Gully erosion is one of the ecological challenges affecting almost all the states in the South-Eastern part of Nigeria. The problem is, however, most pronounced in Anambra and Imo states. For example, at Ezioko Nanka in Anambra State, the deep gully created by erosion measures more than 20 feet.
Members of the Presidential Committee on Erosion and Flood Control who visited the community recently almost fell into one of the gullies. A resident of the community had to shout on them to move away from the edge of the gully because there was another deep gully underneath which could cave in any moment.
When Vanguard Metro, VM, sought to know how long communities in Ezioko Nanka have faced the erosion problem, a resident who introduced himself as Anthony Nwankwo, said the problem has lasted over 50 years.
“When it started, it was like a deep gutter. Whenever it rained, there will be water inside the gutter and as children, we used to play in the water. But with the passage of time, the gutter started expanding until it got to this stage of swallowing houses,” he said
The traditional ruler of Ezioko, Igwe Laz Ekwueme who was close to tears appealed to the Presidential Committee on Erosion and Flood Control in the South East zone, to take immediate actions to save his community from going under.
Igwe Ekwueme re-lived a sad story of how over 27 houses were submerged by the erosion and the pains members of his community have been going through as a result of the erosion menace.
At Nikisi erosion control project in Onitsha North Local Government Area, Governor Peter Obi, who was at the site with the committee members, said work is going on smoothly although a lot still needs to be done. The project is being handled by Messrs Grunz Link Nigeria Limited.
The Committee also visited Alor flood erosion control site in Anambra State. The contractor, Prince Tony Ventures urged the Federal Government to give him 14 days to complete the remaining part of the work.
The Chairman of the Committee, Mr. Emeka Eze, an engineer, said the Federal Government is spending N11.5 billion to tackle 15 erosion sites in the South East. He commended Governor Obi for his commitment to the realisation of the projects in the state. Eze who noted that the work so far done is based on the availability of funds, told non-performing contractors that they risk revocation of their contracts.
At Onitsha main market (Saka Mori/ Nwangene flood control and dredging) project being handled by Beneiafinter Limited, the Committee’s leader condemned the filthy attitude of the people living in the area. He noted that erosion can be self- inflicted because of the way people live. He, therefore, called for proper disposal of refuse in the area.
Umuozu Ugiri erosion control project at Isiala Mbana Local Government Area of Imo State was another project visited by the team. Work on the N272 million project was said to have started in 2011.
Slow pace of work
The project consists of about six kilometres of road and drainage. The committee was not happy with the slow pace of work at the site. The contractor attributed this to the delay in getting funds released.
At St Kizito Secondary School, Umuchima in Imo State, the Chairman of the Committee told journalists that while the team was happy with the Nekede project, the same could not be said of the one at St. Kizito where, according to him, the engineering work fell short of expectation.
”As you can see, while we are happy with the Nekede project, the St. Kizito project falls short of the required engineering expectations. The contractor did not have programme of work, site meeting reports, schedule of work and actual programme of work,” he said. But the contractor, Messrs Umez-Eronini claimed that 95 percent of the job had been done.
During a courtesy visit on Governor Rochas Okorocha, Mr. Eze said his committee undertook the tour to fast-track the on-going ecological projects in the zone. He particularly criticised the consultants for failing to mediate between the Federal Government and the contractors. He accused them of taking sides with the contractors, alleging that no consultant has ever reported a contractor for doing a shoddy job. “The moment you make a wrong choice of contractor the project has already failed.
What is most important is the capacity of the people, designing the solutions, those who are doing project definition and those who are project consultants. If the consultants don’t package the project properly no matter the experience of the contractor, he would not build what he was asked to build,” he said. Eze wondered why similar erosion projects, executed under the Shagari administration, have lasted for over 30 years while those recently constructed in the area are failing.