By Chimaobi Nwaiwu
NNEWI—THE family house of the former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme is being threatened by gully erosion that cuts across Nanka in Aguata Local Government Area and Oko in Orumba North Local Government Area in Anambra State. The erosion menace, which had rendered hundreds of residents of the community homeless, had now deeply eaten into Ekweme family land even as they would soon be driven out if urgent steps were not taken to stop the menace.
Recently, five more houses were affected by the gully erosion, while 22 families whose houses were under serious threat by the gully erosion have relocated to safer places. The ugly situation in Oko forced the Umuada Oko (daughters of Oko) married within and outside the area to embark on peaceful demonstration to attract the Federal Government’s attention to the two things they said are presently giving them sleepless nights, namely the gully erosion that was set to wipe out the community as well as their alleged marginalization and falling academic standards at the Federal Polytechnic, Oko.
They marched from Oko Civic Centre, to the Federal Polytechnics gate where they prayed, and left for the Palace of the traditional ruler of the town, Igwe (Prof.) Laz Ekwueme, who was not in the state as at the time of the protest.
They also, held a prayer rally before leaving to the house of the President General of the community, Hon. Cyprain Nwanmuo, who had no option than to join them to visit the gully erosion site, before they finally retired to the Civic Centre to conclude their prayer rally.
The women alleged that successive governments at all levels had continued to neglect the gully erosion, adding that when it started creeping in from Nanka they complained but were ignored. “Respective officials of various levels of government visit the gully erosion site, without offering solutions as promised. We are also not happy with marginalization of Oko people in the Federal Polytechnics by the present management of the institution…,” they lamented.
The protesters disrupted vehicular movements, as they sang songs, inviting the Federal Government to intervene to address their grievances. Addressing newsmen at gully erosion site, at the back of Dr. Ekwueme’s family house, which is also housing the underground building described as Palace of his younger brother and traditional ruler of Oko, Igwe Ekwueme, Mrs. Rhoda Ezechimere said that they were living in fears now in the community due to the threats posed by the gully erosion that is fast taking over the community.
“These are the two things that are troubling our minds, unsettling us and making us sad, which led to this peaceful demonstration and prayer session for God’s intervention to our present situation, we do not sleep these days if it is raining. “The gully erosion has eaten deep into our land and when the land is caving in due to the gully erosion, it goes down in hectares,” she said.
Apart from Mrs. Ezechimere, two other women were selected to speak the minds of ‘Umuada Oko,’ namely Mrs. Gladys Anasoro and Mrs. Beatrice Nwankwo. They lamented the devastation the gully erosion had caused in the community as well as the alleged marginalization of their people at the Federal Polytechnic and appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to address their problems.
According to Mrs. Nwankwo: “If the Federal Government does not intervene through the ecological fund to address this gully erosion that crept into our community and has already led to the destruction of many houses and relocation of more than 22 families, our town will soon go into extinction.”
Mrs. Anasoro in her speech said “we protested because gully erosion is set to chase us out of our town, our houses are being swept by gully erosion and some families are relocating, there is tension in Oko and the Federal Government institution that is supposed to be giving us happiness has become a source of unhappiness because of the management style of the people at the helm of affairs.
“The Umuada Oko is unanimously calling on the President Buhari and the governor of Anambra State to come to our rescue,” she said. The President General of the community, Hon. Nwanmuo, who addressed the women, said Oko had five villages, all of which were being devastated by serious gully erosion, particularly, Ezioko and Eziaba villages where the erosion menace has gone beyond control.
“The palliative measures we have applied are being washed away by flood channeled to Oko from their neighbouring towns; every community has its own peculiar problems, ranging from roads, health facilities, among others, but we only ask for erosion control, that is not asking for too much.
“Due process office has visited the site; Senator Uche Ekwunife visited as Chairman, Ecological Committee of House of Representatives, when she was there, former Governor Peter Obi and his successor Chief Willie Obiano visited the erosion site, but nothing has been done to address the problem. This is one of the two reasons that made the women to protest…,” he said.
He said that “Oko community had for the past years been fighting injustice meted out to two of their sons and daughters by the management of the institution, using intimidation and harassment and denial of certain rights to our people to silence them from knowing what happens in the institution. When the South East Voice visited Federal Polytechnic, Oko to get its reaction to the peaceful demonstration, both the Rector, Prof. Godwin Onu and the Public Relations Officer, Mr. Obini Onuchukwu were not available. Calls and a text message to the GSM lines of the rector were neither received.