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Guinness and Oregbeni community: Live and let die

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By Joesf Omorotionmwan
Gully erosion has today become a major problem in many parts of Nigeria. Thousands of buildings are threatened by erosion, which endangers the economy and makes it extremely difficult for people to earn a living. Various parts of the country are littered with gullies caused by extreme and swift ground erosion. Millions of lives are affected as some villages are totally cut off from the rest of the country and in most areas, local economies are fast collapsing.

In some cases, entire villages are cut off from towns and cities, thus slowing down commerce and further aggravating the already bad poverty level among Nigerians. Just imagine a situation where people have to park their vehicles far from home while they navigate the gullies on foot.

Our children are no longer able to play the way they should; they no longer play football or tale by moonlight for fear of falling into the gully and being consumed. During the rainy season, parents have become apprehensive of sending their children to school because there is no telling when the rain would begin.

The menace is tearing highways apart and washing away farmlands and other infrastructure in the already devastated country where poverty has reached a crescendo.

In most cases, the trend is attributable to poor planning and extreme laxity on the part of those who should act. We soon find that what should have been fixed with just a little care, by spending a few hundred Naira a few years back, can today no longer be controlled even by several billions of Naira.

To think that these enormous problems are man-made, and sometimes consciously-induced, simply bespeaks of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.

How else does anyone see a Federal Government that invariably creates a problem for its poor citizens, who in turn go cap in hand, begging the same Federal Government for assistance out of that problem; and in the end, the Federal Government reluctantly, through its numerous ineffective agencies, throws a few Naira at the problem, expecting it to go away? Of course, the problem would persist. This has been the way of our Federal Government, particularly in its relationship with Edo State. Examples here are legion:

Originally, Ogiso Street and its environ, in the heart of Benin City, used to be the visitors’ delight but they went into dilapidation and decay immediately the Federal Government constructed the Murtala Mohammed Way, MMW, in utter disregard of all erosion control measures. This was when all the flood water coming from the Edo College end and the higher grounds of Second East Circular Road were pushed on Ogiso Street and its environ.

Again, when the Federal Government constructed the Benin-Agbor Highway, all the flood water coming from the entire Ohovbe area got diverted to Queen Ede, which eventually produced the enormous gully that we are unable to contend with today.

Our frail human memory has failed us, so soon, to remember the wanton destruction to people and their property in the NITEL Lake area on Auchi Road in Benin City. This is one area where the Federal Government and the massive flood water coming all the way from the New Federal Housing Estate have been fighting for the right of passage. The flood water has been emptied on the poor inhabitants in the area. The people have been sacked and the entire community has been abandoned along with their property, sometimes, all they have worked for in their entire life time.

In Nigeria, many foreign companies have shown themselves as armies of occupation – they come to a community; plunder it with reckless abandon; repatriate all the profits home; and leave the host community devastated!

A living example here is Guinness Nigeria Plc, located in Oregbeni Community across Ikpoba River in the eastern flank of Benin City. To this company, the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility is anathema. It has nothing to show for its many years of existence in the area, posting enormous annual profits. All it can be remembered for is that it has succeeded in making passive drunkards of many of us. No one who lives in Oregbeni area can confidently lay claim to not being a beer drinker. The smell of beer rents the air in the area and forms part of the air we breathe. What the inhaled booze does to the lungs is anyone’s conjecture.

Spending money for the environment is a price that wealth pays for wealth. A good nation that paves the highway must be prepared to take care of the side effects of its constructions.

One does not have to be an ecologist to know that Guinness has just sentenced its entire neighbourhood to death – horrible death by flood water and erosion! To Guinness, it is a case of live and let die.

It is a total re-enactment of the Ogiso Street and Queen Ede erosion site scenarios – emptying the flood water from the entire Agbor Road axis on the inhabitants of the area.

Apparently, you can’t beat the rich. When we saw the earth-moving equipment coming around Guinness, we thought a Daniel had come to judgment. Little did we know that Guinness was going to terminate the road construction work where its perimeter fence ends. In the next one or two rainy seasons, the catastrophe here shall have attained alarming proportion, no thanks to Guinness!

It is despicable that a company that has earned huge profits from doing business all these years, besides being unwilling to give a little back to its host community, also wants the community exterminated.

The minimum expectation from Guinness is to continue the Road construction to connect the Ihinmwinhin area down to Upper Sokponba Road. As a last resort, Guinness could, in its Shylock stance, decide to collect toll on the Road. At least, a viable bye-pass from the Ramat Park/Agbor Road axis, where terrible traffic congestion has become a daily occurrence, shall have been put in place. It will provide a win-win situation for Guinness – a good neighbour with enormous goodwill.

 

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