By Peter Okutu
ABAKALIKI- EBONYI State Government through the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project, NEWMAP, of the Federal Government, weekend, began the payment of N211, 486, 220 million as compensation to 347 rural farmers, property owners among others, who will be affected as a result of the intervention project geared towards tackling the menace of erosion occasioned by flooding in the state.
In Ebonyi, the Agency is executing four projects at Iyi-Okwu/International Market flood site, Iyi-Udele flood site, Odunukwe-Nkaliki-Hatchery road flood site and Ebia River, Egu-Ugwu Agbaja flood site at the tune of N13.76 billion to pave way for the channelisation of flood and allow for the economic prosperity of the citizens and the state at large.
The project further seeks to enhance erosion management and gully rehabilitation, increase incomes for rural households through improved agricultural and forest practices, agro-forestry, natural regeneration and gain efficiency in public administration and public spending through improved knowledge-based, analytical tools, multi-sectoral coordination and stakeholder dialogue.
Handing over cheques to the beneficiaries, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State represented by the Commissioner for Environment, Chief Donatus Njoku called on them to effectively use the funds given to them to find an alternative to their farmland or buildings so that the project would be successfully executed for the betterment of their communities.
In a chat with South-East Voice, the Project Coordinator, Dr. Philip Echiegu stated that the affected persons were being paid compensation so that they will not suffer any form of loss following the execution of the project as 347 of them would benefit from the N211, 486, 220 million released for the exercise.
“Altogether, we have four projects; those four projects are divided into two lots; Odunukwe-Nkaliki-Hatchery road site and Iyi-Okwu/International market flood site are in one lot whereas, Iyi-Udele flood site and Ebia River, Egu-Ugwu Agbaja flood site are in lot 2.
“The contract has been awarded for the two lots in the amount of N13.76 billion altogether; what we are trying to do here today is to pay compensation to the project affected persons because it is anticipated that the project will affect and involuntarily displace some persons; some are farmers while some have buildings along the corridors of our interventions.
“So in order to make sure that they don’t suffer loss as a result of the project, we are paying them compensation; altogether we have 347 persons that will be affected at one of the sites, Odunukwe-Nkaliki-Hatchery road flood site but the total amount earmarked for this compensation for that section is N211, 486, 220.
“Since Monday, we have been doing due diligence to make sure that we do all the needful in terms of verification and authentication of the compensation of the project affected persons to go and stand at their site so that they will be documented and we go back to the office, fill some forms, do other verifications, bring their ID cards; bring land papers for authentication; for those who don’t have are expected to bring their ID from their traditional rulers or from the site committee for that site.
“We are doing everything possible not to get involved in some property that will jack up the compensation amount; there are some farms we are trying to see; the intervention involves channelisation; you know as the river is moving, it is creating some course; as the river is moving it introduces some loops and reduces the velocity. We are doing everything possible to avoid some choice property so that the compensation will even go down.”
The beneficiaries who were mostly farmers thanked the initiators of the kind gesture and promised to utilise the funds accordingly.