BY OBIALUNAMMA NWADIOGBU
IHIALA—The people of Umuezeawara Community in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State are groaning over lack of access roads.Residents of the area claimed that the village had lost over 45 persons in several road mishaps due to the reckless manner of tipper drivers that pass through the area to dig sand from excavation sites at the Atamiri River.
They claimed the road which stretches from Okija junction through Ihiala to Egbema in Imo State and down to Rivers State, was first constructed during the administration of former President Shehu Shagari in 1980 and had not been rehabilitated since then. According to them, the people had sent several appeals for intervention to Governor Willie Obiano and his Imo State counterpart, Rochas Okorocha without any positive response.
A hydro geologist, Dr. Emmanuel Nwabineli, who spoke on the state of the road as well as sand excavation from the Atamiri River, captured the situation thus: “As a professional and an environmentalist I can tell you that our environment is under threat. I know the size of the river in the past, but the level of degradation occasioned by the excavation of sand is a potential danger that would soon come.
“We have sent petitions to the Federal Ministry of Environment and also to the state government on the matter. You know that before one begins to excavate sand at any point, you must carry out Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA. But this was not the case in this place.” Nwabineli said that the community had protested for attention, adding that their appeals were yet to be addressed.
He also said that, apart from the hazards and risks faced by the road users, their vegetation was at risk as constant excavation continued to wash down the soil surface into the river causing erosion and loss of vegetation.
Erosion and lossof vegetation
The villagers claimed over 120 Mercedes 911 tippers pass through the road daily to excavate sand, hence the agony and lamentation by the people. Traders at Afor Igwe Market in Umudara village also, lamented the hardship they faced on every market day. Mr. Lious Okani from Umuezeawara said: “Before these tipper drivers started using the road, we had no problems we had enough space to do our trading, but suddenly, deep pot- holes began to form on the road and started expanding, encroaching into the market.
“I lost my seven year old son Chukwuebuka to the accident that occurred few months ago. He was returning from school when one of the tippers knocked him down and he died on the spot. “The worst is that the driver ran away with his tipper and all my efforts to find out the particular driver that killed my son proved abortive because hundreds of them pass through that road on daily on top speed.”
Also, Mr. Oddy Chukwube, chief press secretary to the former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, while describing the situation as worrisome, painted the picture thus: “I feel troubled about what my village is going through. You can even see it yourself. In fact we lack words to express the havoc being caused by these, truck drivers.”