* Villagers live without electricity, road and potable water since creation
* LG chair shuns village after vehicle broke down on horrible road
* Rundown bridge to community constructed 53 years ago
By Ike Uchechukwu
BAYOP— Government officials, neighouring villagers and traders have abandoned Bayop, an agricultural community in Osokom II clan, Boki Local Government Area, Cross River State, while residents are also relocating from the settlement because of its horribly bad road, lack of basic amenities and abject misery they found themselves.
During his visit last month (August) to a neighboring village to Bayop, the vehicle of the incumbent chair of Boki local government, Mr. Abubakar Ewa, broke down on the tumbledown road. Since then, chair is not in a hurry to take a trip on the road.
Youths rescued him and his entourage from the mess, otherwise, he would have had worse tales to tell.
About a month after the unforgettable incident, Bawop is still a no go area. Other government officials and citizens have followed correspondingly because of intolerable bad road.
Inhabitants of the autonomous community, which has boundary with Oku –Bushuyu in the east, Kakwagom in the north, Oku Aro/Buanakong in the west and Mbube in Ogoja local government area in the south are predominantly rural farmers , who produce yams, cassava and cocoa yams.
Chair of Bawop community, Chief George Tuku Ochang, who was shocked to see a journalist in the settlement, asserted, “We are like people at the last part of the world. In fact, we live at the end of the world, it takes more than three hours to get to this place on a dry day from Ogoja, talk more of coming from the council headquarters.”
Govt has since forsaken us
“Government after government, administration after administration, not one has remembered us till date,” he added.
A source revealed that the last time government carried out a project was in 1962 and it was a bridge by the then Eastern Nigeria Government in a joint effort with the community. The bridge commissioned in 1963 by I. U. Akpabio is the only government project in the area, it connects Mbube in Ogoja to Bawop-Utugwang in Obudu.
Niger Delta Voice investigations revealed that the people lacked all the necessities of life. The people have been living in darkness since the community into existence, the road is rickety and potable water is a luxury.
The villagers constructed practically everything in the community, including the only primary and secondary schools on self-help, except the six-block classroom facilitated by a former member of the House of Representatives.
Sadly, the schools devastated by windstorm in 2012 are begging for repairs, though the community recently gave it a penny-pinching face-lift.
‘We live at the end of the world’
Bawop chair, Chief Ochang, told Niger Delta Voice, “Right from the time I was a boy, this community has been sustained by the levies and other forms of personal sacrifice made by the people. We are like people at the last part of the world; in fact, we live at the end of the world, it takes more than three hours to get to the place on a dry day from Ogoja, talk more of coming from the council headquarters.”
Kudos for Niger Delta Voice
“I commend your paper (Niger Delta Voice) for sending you here to tell the world that there are people who still live in the dark ages of no light, water road or even school, yet we vote. Politicians only come to Bawop when they are canvassing for votes.”
“I can remember vividly when the current local government chairman was contesting to become the chairman, his vehicle got stuck on the bridge, it was our youths that removed the car and he promised to fix it as soon as he enters office, up till now, he has never visited this community in an official capacity. All you see are tinted vehicles of government officials.”
Kettles of fish
“Without mincing words, my friend we are still very backward, whenever we are going out to town, it is a different kettle of fish because you have to pay a lot of money to the commercial motorcyclist, sometimes up to N2, 000,” he said.
Chief Ochang asserted that the people find it practically impossible to take their farm produce to market because the roads were not motorable, forcing them to sell the produce at give away prices.
His words:” We are a predominantly farmers, farming is the only industry we have in Bawop, but our products hardly get to the consumers, making it almost impossible for us to survive, in fact we really thank your people for sending you here.”
Appeal to Gov Ayade
“We are using this opportunity to send a Save Our Soul message to His Excellency, Prof Ben Ayade to come to our aid, we know what he did as a Senator and we also believe that he will do the same for Cross River Sate and Bawop,” Ochang added.
The community leader lamented, “look at these poles and wire, they were all installed half way as far back as 2007/2008 or thereabout. They are now monuments as far as we concerned, we can only hope and pray that the Prof Ayade -led administration will take us out of this misery.”
According to him, “We are making a passionate appeal, we are also aware of the fact that the state is surviving on a very lean resource, we can only but appeal for help from government at all levels especially the state and federal government.”
Chair, Parent Teacher Association, PTA, Bawop Secondary School Bawop, Sir Patrick Eran Kekung, asserted, “We built the school from the levies we got from all young adult, both male and female. Really it has been very difficult but we have been able to weather the storm over the years but we do not know how long we can continue like this,” ‘he said.
His words:” We live in a very bad terrain, I can only imagine what you went through before you got here, but I can tell it was not a joyful ride, there is windstorm almost every year. We, the people of Bawop have not recovered fully from that of 2012.”
“We have levied the entire community, the women also levied themselves to be able to take the work up to this level but there is still work to be done, we have lost the wood workshop, chemistry laboratory and other facilities in the school, “Kekung bemoaned.
He said the very fabric of education of the children was under threat because it is difficult to teach science subjects when there is no space, materials, tools and equipment.
Another community leader and pioneer senior prefect, Secondary School, Bawop, Mr. Manus Bisong Nku, said what was once a beauty to behold was fast becoming an eyesore because of neglect with no form of support or intervention government.
“This school became operational in 1977 and the structures you see here today were mostly put around 1973, so you can imagine a building as old as this without any renovation or face- lift. Apart from that, windstorm has really dealt with us and has become a devil we have to face on a yearly basis because of our terrain.
“My fear is not just the structure but what the condition of the schools from the Lutheran Primary School to the Secondary, it might get to a point that our children may not really be able to go to school anymore.
“The educational development of this place is under serious jeopardy, this is the only viable industry we have. We are crying out to Prof Ben Ayade to come to our aid as soon as people we are dying, we feel like a forgotten people, “Nku said.
A resident, Mr. Anthony Abang, who is familiar with the Ewa’s August predicament on the road, however, swore that though the chair had not visited Bawop in his official capacity, he has been passing the road surreptitiously as if he was not aware of the plight of the people.
He asserted, “Since Abubakar Ewa became the chairman of Boki local government, he has never for once visited Bawop in an official capacity but that does not mean that he does not come to this axis since his vehicle was stuck on the Bridge in August (2015), this year. He has been passing here ‘Nicodemus-ly’ thinking we would not know he is the one, but we know.”
“Because the day that incident took place they (he and other Boki politicians) were going to the next community ,he promised to do something about the bridge, if he has not visited since he became chairman ,is it now that he will remember us? Abang retorted.
He, however, said that the councilor representing the ward has really tried by lodging complaints to appropriate quarters but nothing has come out of it.
I see electricity only when I go to Ogoja, Lagos
Women leader and farmer, Mrs. Agnes Enu, said that since she got married to her late husband, Fredrick Enu, in 1970, most of the structures and development in the town were all communal efforts. “We live at the end of the world, where there is no water, road or even electricity, I see light only when I visit my children in Ogoja or Lagos, but in this community, electricity is still a myth for us.
“We know Imoke did a lot for most rural communities beyond reasonable doubt but we don’t know what really happened to the case of Bayop,” she added.
Her words, “Since my husband died, I went into full- fledged farming, which is what most people here do, but taking the farm produce out of the community is another herculean task because there are no roads, it is worse when it rains, sometimes you cannot go out from here for two to three days when the down pour is heavy.”
She voiced, “Life is so difficult for us here and we live and feel like forgotten people, our schools both primary and secondary, especially road are deplorable. We know Prof Ben Ayade will help us by providing these things to make our lives a bit easier.”
Mrs. Gladys Ekum, who upheld her claim, said,” Our husbands tried by levying every young adult, but the proceeds did not take the roof too far.
We tasked ourselves (the women of Bayop) again to take the work up to the level you have seen it today because the bulk of the burden of our children not going to school falls on us, so we had to do something.”
Like others, she said the major problem facing the community was a link road and she believes if Prof Ayade hears about their suffering, he would do something for them.
“Most of the farm produce we have have little or no value because you can only take what a motorcycle can carry which is not much. We are facing serious hardship in this place, they should please come to our aid before poverty kills us all, many of our children will not be going to school this term,” Mrs. Ekum said.
Help on the way
Contacted, chief press secretary to the governor, Mr. Christian Ita, said stated that it might be true that the school was not renovated by the last administration, but it should be in the last phase of schools to be renovated.
He explained that government is continuous and will attend to the community’s plight, pointing out that places that are more interior, witnessed uncommon development during the last administration, and so the current government will do more to alleviate the sufferings of the people.
Ita added that His Excellency, Prof Ayade, is very responsive and matches action with words, stressing that with what he had done within his first 100 days in office, it was visible to the blind and audible to the deaf that he means business.