* Mekaval Hotel affected, over 100 houses in jeopardy, inhabitants relocate
* Residents explode, say Ministry of Works, Uvwie LG, NDDC ignored alert notices
By Emma Amaize
EFFURUN- If you stop over at Aribogha Street and environs, off Refinery Road, Effurun, Uvwie Local Government Area, Delta State, where a wing of the magnificent Mekaval Hotel collapsed, last Wednesday, and seven persons salvaged alive, you would bellyache for the state and the breed of officials that manage its affairs.
The September 9 incident was a disaster forecasted by the people and government would have without problems prevented it if officials bothered to listen and acted on the timely complaints of the troubled residents, who alerted the state government and assortment of other agencies since 2010. Oddly, civil servants left the letters unattended until the disaster occurred.
As at Friday when Niger Delta Voice reporter visited the area, many apartments were still submerged. A one-room shop opposite Mekaval Hotel was under water, but the owner had evacuated her goods. Also waterlogged was a close by institution, Victory School, a storey- building complex and a company, where our reporter, clutching his shoes on his left hand and his trouser folded to his knees, met a soldier on guard.
The advancing flood from the burrow pit had overrun the company’s fence from where it broke into Mekaval Hotel. At least three other high-rise buildings were standing in the hotel at the time of our visit, but the collapsed wing was much closer to the point of impact. However, a bungalow behind the affected wing, also saturated, withstood the foray.
Delta govt dug controversial burrow pit!
Unmistakably, the problem that led to the heartrending state of affairs, several residents swore to Niger Delta Voice, arose many years ago, when the state government allegedly created an artificial pit (burrow pit) to build roads in the twin city of Effurun and Warri, both headquarters of Uvwie and Warri South local government areas.
High speed development
With high-speed development in the area and unchecked manner of erecting structures, the borrow pit whose water flows to nowhere, grew in size and practically turned to a river, spilling over its bounds. Alarmingly with no discharge point, the water from the burrow pit ends up in houses of the residents, drenching the entire street.
It had remained so over the years. Many panic -struck residents and business owners had relocated from the ‘danger territory’ in the last few months.
Mekaval Hotel owned by Chief Chiedu Idama happened to be the first major sufferer, this year. Inhabitants say it was customary to see the layout submerged yearly for a period of four to five months.
From our findings, there is every indication that more houses would crumple, except government takes urgent action to tackle the underlying cause of the predicament.
…Five years ago: On November 29, 2010, the worried property owners and residents of Aribogha Street wrote to the Ministry of Works and Housing, Asaba, alerting government of the threat to their life and property by a threatening overflow from the burrow pit.
In the letter by their solicitor, J. O Igudia Esq, addressed to the Commissioner, the people said they had written the chair of Uvwie local government, Uvwie monarch and the state government before then to no avail. They pleaded that government should channel the burrow pit to the drainage in Jakpa Road to prevent the looming disaster. However, the authorities purportedly dismissed it with a wave of hand.
Rude shock: The urgent letter was seemingly followed by an incident the previous day, November 28, 2010. To the supreme mortification of the residents, who woke up on that day, they saw the same government they had been calling to come to their rescue, which had paid deaf ears to their cries, constructing drainage to channel water from different parts of Effurun to the said burrow pit through their street (Aribogha).
They noted, “This is without regard to the problem of over flooding already on ground from the said burrow pit and which has sent residents out of their houses for the past five months.”
The distressed residents reportedly approached the ARC engineer on the site, who told them that he was using the design from the Ministry of Works.
They expressed alarm that “without proper survey on the effect of the drainage construction on the residents and landlords, the engineer has gone ahead to construct the said drainage” and urged the commissioner to reconsider the design and save them the artificial hazard.
“Sir, development as we all know is for the enjoyment of the people and not to their detriment and we are in support of development to the letter and this development we long for, we cannot be a hindrance to it, but when it is designed to our detriment, it is not development,” they added.
The lawyer wrote, “Our client has instructed that we demand that for a drainage to be constructed to the said burrow pit there has to be a way for the water in the burrow pit to flow so that when it rains, instead of over flowing to our houses, the water will find its way to the proper channel.”
Fresh alert ignored
On July 18, 2011, the property owners in a further letter signed by Mr. Jacob Igudia and Marvel Ikpe, appraised the chair of the local government of the worsening over flooding from the burrow pit, Navy Barracks and Refinery Road, which empties into their compounds and had caused unquantifiable damage to their buildings.
“We, the residents of the area on our own have been trying in our own way to see how we can solve the issue of over flooding of the said burrow pit by pouring laterite on the road and making embankment, all to no avail. So we are using this medium again to appeal to your humble office and as the chair of Uvwie Task Force Committee on Prevention of Flood in Uvwie to come to our rescue so as to avert any further loss of life and property,” they said.
Nothing done for almost a year, they wrote again in January 27, 2014, this time to the member representing Uvwie in the state House of Assembly, Hon Efe Ofobruku, drawing his attention to the menace.
Overflow into the street
They informed him: “The flood is caused by the overflow from the Jakpa road borrow pit. All the water from the Navy Barracks, Refinery Road, Aka Avenue and Jakpa Road flows into the burrow pit. There is no outlet from the burrow pit, hence the overflow into our streets and houses.”
They also sent a letter, entitled, “Request for urgent assistance to curtail the flood in Aribogha street and environs, off Refinery road, Effurun” to the Commissioner representing the state in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, January 31, 2014, four days after the letter to Ofobruku.
Idama begs frantically for assistance
On the second of the successive month, February, last year, chair of Mekaval Hotel, Chief Idama, wrote in his personal capacity to the NDDC commissioner, pleading for critical assistance in the provision of drainage to diver the flood from Aribogha Street and environs into the Ekpan River via the Jakpa Road drainage.
“We are pleading that your office comes to rescue us as our entire self help efforts have not been able to curtail the flood,” he said, adding, “This has paralyzed our hotel business during the rain peak period.”
More than five months ago, it was blatant that something drastic could happen. The residents again fired another letter to the Uvwie local government chair. In the April 20 letter, signed by Chief Idama, Dr. E.U. Jegbefume and 3 others, they begged for urgent permission for the residents to construct a drainage system that will divert the flood from Aribogha Street and environs into the Ekpan River via the Jakpa Road drainage through self-help.
They noted, “The permission or authority is necessary as the neighbouring community has stopped us from constructing the drainage system…The flood has been very destructive to our lives as we have to evacuate our houses during the flooding period. This is why the landlords have come together to carry out this self help project.”
“We will be glad if you can send your engineering and environmental officers to visit the area and speak to our neighbouring community and persuade them to allow us construct the drainage system as it does not affect their houses and roads,” they further requested.
No structural defect in Mekaval Hotel – Idama
Chief Idama said, “For the past five or six years, we have been noticing the overflow from the burrow pit, it has become very menacing, this is a burrow pit dug during the construction of Jakpa Road and Refinery Road and it does not flow out. Therefore, at the peak of the rain, it vomits it at Aribogha Street and environs. Mekaval Hotel is located on Aribogha Street. We have complained persistently to different governments.”
“We made applications to Delta State government, NDDC, DESOPADEC, and local government to come to our assistance and channel the burrow pit through Jakpa Road to Ekpan stream, but no help came. The last Commissioner for Environment, Chief Frank Omare, was frequent here, giving promises, but still yet, nothing done.
“We had predicted the damage this overflow has done to our buildings, so we are not surprised that part of Mekaval Hotel buildings collapsed. It is a high-rise building under continuous flood bombardment, if you go round the neighbourhood, everywhere is heavily flooded, “he asserted.
He said the residents went to the Delta Broadcasting Service, DBS, to make known their plight, but the government media outfit refused to air their plight, saying that higher authorities warned them not to take any news on flooding.
Residents perplexed, waiting for Okowa
Secretary of the Landlords’ Association in the area, Mr. Marvel Ikpe, said that the residents were bewildered at government inactions over the years, which caused the collapse of the hotel and presently pose life-threatening danger to the people. He said those who channeled water to the burrow pit claimed that they thought the place was a river and so, they constructed the road in such a way that all the water coming from the Navy Yard, Refinery and Jakpa roads pour into our street.
He said, “officials of the Ministry of Environment came to the area about two or three months ago for the umpteenth time to look at the damage, promising that they will come back but until today, I have not seen them.”
The embittered residents chorused that the burrow pit dug by the state government caused the calamity and they were waiting to see what Governor Okowa would do about their plight.