…Anambra, Abia, Imo worst hit
…Octogenarians, others lose homes to gully
BY ANAYO OKOLI, VINCENT UJUMADU, Dayo Johnson, Chioma Onuegbu Emma Una, CHDI NKWOPARA, UGOCHUKWU ALARIBE, NWABUEZE OKONKWO, James ogunaike, DENISS AGBO, CHINOSO ALOZIE, PETER OKUTU, & IKECHUKWU ODU
No fewer than 10 states in the South-East, South-South and South-West are threatened by more than 3,500 active erosion sites.
The areas, which had been active before this year’s torrential rainfall, became severe with the rains as many homes have been washed away while hundreds are rendered homeless.
Affected states include Anambra, Imo, Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Ogun and Ondo.
Investigations by Sunday Vanguard showed that the menace has cut off some communities, destroyed link roads and ravaged farmlands.
It is a common sight to find attractive and modest houses in deep gullies with many abandoned for fear of being swept away.
Though efforts had been made by federal and state governments, gully erosion continues to ravage many communities, leading to not just environmental degradation but also the destruction of lives and property.
The socio-economic activities of affected areas are not also spared.
Official figures of active sites could not be obtained from the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project, NEWMAP, under the Federal Ministry of Environment but Wikipedia put the figure at 3, 000 across the country.
NEWMAP came into existence following a plea made by then-President Goodluck Jonathan to the World Bank for assistance given the dangers posed by severe gully erosion.
In affected states, apart from Ondo and Ogun, over 2, 000 active sites were identified in a 2017 report by the European Centre for Research Training and Development, UK.
In 2018, World Igbo Environmental Foundation, WIFE, said there were over 2,800 active erosion sites in the South-East.
1,000 active sites
The breakdown showed that more than 1, 000 active sites are in Anambra, 300 in Imo, 500 in Abia, 500 in Enugu and 500 in Ebonyi.
In some communities, Sunday Vanguard observed that NEWMAP has reclaimed some sites, but the number continues to increase as a result of climatic and human factors.
For instance, in Anambra, it was observed that no fewer than 100 active sites currently exist in over 178 communities with Nkpor, Obosi, Oko, Nanka, Agulu and Ekwulobia as worst affected.
The result of the state-by-state checks showed that the numbers of ravaged sites are alarming despite the efforts of NEWMAP.
State of emergency
Sunday Vanguard notes that the level of devastation made the Ministry of Environment to consider declaring an emergency on gully erosion last week.
The Minister of State for Environment, Mrs. Sharon Ikeazor, who dropped the hint while inspecting some erosion sites in Anambra, called for urgent measures to curb the threat posed by gully erosion
Communities, roads isolated
In Abia State, almost all the communities in Abia North are under the threat of gully erosion.
Communities in Isiukwuato, Bende, Umunneochi and Ohafia councils are the worst hit.
Also, communities in Umuahia North and South councils in the Central Senatorial District are under serious threat.
Those gravely affected are Ogudu Assa, Igbere, Amaba, Ohuhu clan, Umunwanwa, Ogudu Asaa, Umuagu Isingwu, Imenyi, Igbere-Abiriba–Ohafia Federal Highway, Isuochi, Umuezekwu and Umuakwu Nsulu.
However, the state government has reclaimed the Umuagu Isingwu, Imenyi, Umuezekwu, and Umuakwu Nsulu erosion sites.
The Uturu-Ovim-Akara Federal Road was cut off by massive gully erosion which had been visited by Federal Government and National Assembly officials.
Nothing came out of the visits.
The road has been abandoned. Plying it amounts to a perilous exercise. Palliative measures put in place in the past could not do much.
Many of these communities in the state have sent a save our soul messages to the federal and state governments to check the ever-widening gully erosion ravaging their homes and farmlands.
A portion of the road on the Abiriba section of the Umuahia– Ohafia Federal Road now poses a huge risk to motorists as the gully erosion is almost taking over the two sides of the highway.
The contract for the reclamation of the site was said to have been awarded to an indigenous company but the gully keeps expanding.
Recently, Ohuhu clan in Umuahia North Council Area lamented that the gully erosion has almost cut off the access road from Umuahia to the community.
Sunday Vanguard learned that the state government, through the NEWMAP/World Bank project, has been making efforts to control the erosion but the magnitude is beyond what the state can contain.
Concerned by the situation, Abia State Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi, urged the Federal Government to urgently fix the erosion site at Agueze Amaogudu Abiriba located on the busy Umuahia-Ohafia Highway to save lives of motorists.
“The Federal Government should urgently fix the gully erosion threatening to divide the Abiriba–Ohafia Highway at Agueze Amaogudu Abiriba. It now poses a huge risk to motorists. It is a disaster waiting to happen”, Okiyi said.
“The contract was awarded but only the Federal Government can tell why nothing has been done while lives are endangered.
“On the part of the Abia State government, we have reclaimed many erosion sites across the state. The places include Umuagu Isingwu, Imenyi, Umuezeukwu and Umuakwu Nsulu communities.”
The highest numbers of active erosion sites are in Anambra State.
Incidentally, almost all the 178 communities in the state have one form of gully erosion or the other, with its attendant consequences.
Many villagers have had to abandon their homes due to the threat of erosion, thereby becoming refugees in their communities.
The most frightening erosion sites are found in Agulu, Nanka, Oko, Obosi, Ekwulobia, Umuchu, Achina, Enugwu Ukwu, Oraifite, Ozubulu, Awka, Okija, Agulu Ezechukwu, Onitsha, Nnewi Ichi, and Nnobi among others.
Every fiscal year, paltry sums are earmarked for gully erosion control in the state.
Some communities have had to embark on palliative measures to contain the spread while waiting for government to fight it holistically.
“The erosion problem we are facing in Achina resulted from the abandonment of Akpo-Mbaraoye Achina-Ogwu Nganga-Onneh-Agbudu-Ogboji road awarded by former Governor Peter Obi”, a community leader in Achina, Chief Modestus Umenzekwe, lamented.
“The contractor handling the road stopped working. We are therefore crying out to government because, in spite of the palliative job I did, our people are still suffering. We implore Governor Willie Obiano and the Federal Government to act fast before a major disaster occurs in Achina”.
At Nnewi Ichi in Nnewi North Local Government Area, LGA, many families have lost their homes to gully erosion.
One of the roads linking the area with neighbouring Nnobi has been severed by erosion.
In Awka, the Anambra State capital, the newly constructed Federal Secretariat and the Federal High Court are threatened by gully erosion which is fast encroaching into the two complexes.
There are fears that unless something is done immediately, the two public structures might be swept away in no distant time.
Anambra State Commissioner for Works, Chief Marcel Ifejiofor, said the State Executive Council had inaugurated an Erosion Design Review Committee to tackle the problem, explaining that findings by the government showed that most of the sites were caused by wrong channelling of water.
Currently, no fewer than 500 residents of Obeleagu/Nkisi Aroli Street, Inland Town in Onitsha North Local Government Area are threatened by erosion.
At the last count, over five houses, including two-storey building housing landlords and tenants, St. Philips Anglican Church and a school belonging to Redeemed Christian Church of God, have caved into the gully.
Though no life was lost, properties estimated at billions of naira were lost.
The affected people have sent a Save Our Soul, SOS, message to the Federal Government to rescue them.
Addressed Lynda Ikpeazu, member representing Onitsha North/South Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, they also copied the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Environment, Ecological Fund Office, and Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
They pleaded for urgent reclamation of the land.
The traditional ruler of Obosi community in Idemili North LGA, Igwe Chidubem Iweka II, also described the scourge as a major source of concern to his subjects.
communities as Afikpo LGA remains source of worry
Gully erosion is gradually becoming a thing of the past in Ebonyi State as numerous interventions by federal and state governments seem to be addressing the situation.
Before now, during any downpour in the state, reports of flooding and ecological degradation made headlines.
The reverse is almost becoming the case, following the channelisation of major rivers and construction of roads and flyovers across some LGAs including the state capital, Abakaliki.
Sunday Vanguard learned that NEWMAP and other Federal Government’s ecological interventions had helped in this regard. However, Afikpo South LGA which has been an area of concern is still appealing to the Federal Government for urgent intervention through the Ecological Fund Office.
Chairman of Afikpo South Council, Eni Chima, said he has written to the Ecological Fund Office through the state government for immediate intervention over four erosion sites within his LGA.
He said: “Four sites in my LGA are currently being affected by erosion. We have written to the Ecological Fund Office and they acknowledged receipt of our letter with a promise to intervene.
“We began this pursuit since 2015 without any intervention but as it stands now we have been told by the office that our request has been captured in the 2020 budget. We are grateful to the federal government for intervening through NEWMAP to save our old Secretariat from complete annihilation.
“This development has affected haulage, disturbed agricultural activities, increased the cost of transporting farm produce from the rural to urban centres, and hampered socio-economic activities. Houses risk being washed away following the prevalence of gully erosion in the Afikpo South LGA.
“Apart from the four sites I mentioned, we need lots of federal government interventions to be able to rid the entire Afikpo South of gully erosion which has plagued the LGA for many years now.’’
Udi, Ezeagu, Nsukka axis worst his as state establishes erosion agency
In Enugu State, many erosion sites have wreaked havoc on economic and social activities in so many communities.
Such sites are found in communities such as Enugu-Ngwo, Onuiyi-Nsukka, Ohom –Orba, Adukwu- Ebe, Umuavulu Abor in Udi, Imiliki-Etiti and Obollo-Afor in Udenu LGA and many other communities.
In Nsukka, the worrisome area is the Onuiyi Heaven.
All the sites pose grave dangers, requiring urgent attention, particularly the sites at Enugu-Ngwo, the home town of the late statesman and founding father of Enugu State, Chief C.C Onoh. A gully erosion site is about to isolate the community.
NEWMAP recently mobilised to site to combat the degradation in Ezatta, Amuzam, Colliery, and St. Theresa ends of the Enugu-Ngwo community.
Gullies in some areas manifest as landslides such as on Udi-Ozalla Road where the land was said to have caved in.
The degradation has also posed threats to major highways such as the Enugu-Onitsha Road where measures are being taken to ensure that the road does not cut off.
The Umuavulu-Abor community is one area the state government in partnership with NEWMAP has spent a huge amount of money to save from sinking as a result of alarming degradation.
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi recently handed over to a contractor, the Umuavulu-Abor deep erosion gully for reclamation, channeling and remediation works.
Former Minister of State for Environment, Alhaji Ibrahim Usman Jibril, last year, commended the efforts of Governor Ugwuanyi in sustaining the set objectives of NEWMAP in tackling ecological challenges in Nigeria.
Ugwuanyi at the function disclosed that his administration had made available the sum of N500 million to demonstrate the political will to qualify for additional Finance Programme of the World Bank.
The state Coordinator of NEWMAP, Mr. Vincent Obetta on assuming duty in 2017 commenced the process of sustaining the erosion control beyond 2021. He called for the establishment of Enugu State Erosion and Watershed Agency, ESWAMA.
The proposal was approved by the State Executive Council and a bill is already before the House of Assembly for an act that would give legal backing to the agency.
The agency already has a steering committee.
Apart from remedying degraded sites, NEWMAP in the state has reinvigorated the livelihood programme which takes care of compensation of affected persons as contained in the components of the Project Implementation Manual, PIM.
Erosion sites already completed in the state include the two pilot sites at 9th Mile, Amaeke Ngwo gully erosion, and the Ajali Water Works gully erosion.
Menace worsened by Rochas’ failure to pay counterpart fund
During the administration of then-Governor Ikedi Ohakim, 250 active erosion sites were identified. Much was not done to address the problem by the immediate past administration of Rochas Okorocha.
Little wonder, Governor Emeka Ihedioha’s first assignment upon assumption of office was a visit to degraded areas close to the two rivers in Owerri and Ideato area.
The governor has released N500 million, which is the state’s counterpart fund for tackling the Ideato erosion project. Work has commenced at the site.
Another site that attracted Ihedioha’s attention and intervention is the one at Ugirike LGA.
Farmlands, economic trees, roads, public and private buildings have, over the years, been swallowed by the gully erosion.
The Atta-Ugirike-Obohia Road had long been cut, making it impossible for the road to be used.
Other areas include Obowo/Ihitte Ubom, Ikeduru, Ahiazu and Ihioma in Orlu areas among others.
Worried by the situation, Ihedioha, on July 21, 2019, dispatched the Secretary to the Government of Imo State, SGI, Chief Uche Onyeagucha, to the area for a firsthand assessment.
Addressing the people, Onyeagucha assured indigenes of Ugirike and Obohia autonomous communities, both in Ikeduru and Ahiazu Mbaise LGAs that the Ihedioha administration would give immediate attention to the gully erosion at the boundary between the two communities on the Atta-Ugirike-Obohia Road.
However, the state administration said the Federal Government has not supported it in that regard.
The state Commissioner for Environment, Tony Okere, who made the revelation to Sunday Vanguard, said at the time Ihedioha took over, it noticed that the immediate past government of Rochas Okorocha worsened the situation by failing to pay N500 million counterpart fund to World Bank to address erosion challenges in the state.
The Commissioner said Ihedioha paid the counterpart fund upon assumption of office. Consequently, contracts have been awarded to end the menace.
He said the gully erosion contracts that have been awarded include the Ideato gully erosion as well as the sites in Okigwe, Mbaise, and Orlu.
Over 80,000 threatened
Several communities in Cross River State are being devastated by erosion.
From the outskirt of Calabar to the central and northern parts of the state, gullies dot the landscape.
The two communities most affected in Calabar are Ikot Nkebre and Nyakassang. These places have become death traps. Gully erosions have turned them into ditches. The state government seems to have become helpless. NEWMAP is assisting in battling some of the gullies.
No fewer than five houses have reportedly been swept away in the last one month in the Nyakasang community which also has clusters of settlements – all situated within erosion-prone areas.
There are over 80,000 inhabitants in these communities. Erosion has continuously threatened them.
A community leader, Patrick Effiong, said gully erosion has since uprooted houses, damaged boreholes, shops, and turned streets into gullies.
He said in the last six months the menace of flood led to the death of five school children who were swept away.
“We have lost many lives in this Edem Okon neighborhood of Nyakassang community we have lost properties worth millions of naira including houses and economic crops. We have written to many government agencies. The NEWMAP has even tagged our community as an emergency case. Where can we run to with our families? We want the government to swiftly come to our aid,” he said.
A 55-year-old man with 12 children and two wives, Mr. Anietie James, whose bungalow may soon be uprooted, appealed to the state government to assist him.
“I have nowhere else to run with 12 children. You can see the state of my house. The foundation has all given way. By the time the next flood comes the house will go. I am appealing to the government to help me. We don’t sleep at night, especially when it rains because of fear of erosion. I don’t have money. The road leading to my house has since been washed away. It is difficult for my children to play or walk out. Government officials have visited but nothing came out of the visit,” he said.
His house is located on the edge of a ravine which has steadily been eaten away. All the surrounding earth, trees, and houses have all been swept away leaving a depth of more than 100 metres where snakes and rodents have habitation.
The story of Ikot Nkebre is not different.
A youth leader, Mr. Nyong Eden, said government officials had visited the place severally during the administration of Liyel Imoke.
He said: “More than 50 houses have been pulled down by the erosion. Close to 100 are at risk if no help comes soon. We are all living in fear every day”.
In the central part of the state, there are deep gullies at Ovonum, Apiapum, Ohana in Obubra LGA.
The chief of the area, Sebastine Mfam said though flooding and erosion are devastating their land, they have nowhere to go.
In Ikaba, Yala LGA it is the same tale of woes, gullies have swept away large portions of farnlands.
In Obudu, houses are being swept away during rainfall.
Public Relations Officer of NEWMAP in Calabar, Mrs. Affiong Okon, told Sunday Vanguard that the agency is working on two sites in the northern part of the state, three in the central and two in Calabar.
Speaking also, the Director-General of the Cross River State Emergency Management Agency SEMA, Mr. Ayim Prince called on residents of all gully threatened settlements in the state to immediately relocate.
3 senatorial districts affected
In Ondo State, most of the communities in the three senatorial districts have severe gully erosion sites.
In Akure, Odige, Ajipowo, Iyange, Eyin Ala, and Sijuade, there erosion sites. Also, there are affected places in Ilara Mokin in lfedore Council Area of the state.
In the south, towns such as Odigbo, Ondo town, and Okitipupa have similar challenges.
Findings in Odigbo showed that erosion sites include Surulere, Odole, Ogbonitan, Oke Ayo, Jomun Atijo, Sasere street, Oharan Orita, and orunto area.
In Ondo town, affected areas include Upper Ayeyemi, lta- Nla junction, Olaniyan, Arilekolafin, and Akinwede.
Others include lkare, Akungba, lsua, Afin, Oke Agbe, Jubilee, Okoja, Iku Awara, Okia, Oka, Ese, lrun/ Surulere Oluta, and Ojeka.
The Commissioner for Environment Funso Esan, could not be reached for comment on the effort of the state government to mitigate the effect of the erosion in identified areas.
However, an official at the ministry, who spoke in confidence said the state government is talking to the federal government on the matter.
Octogenarians appeal for help
In Ogun State, erosion also constitutes a threat in some communities. Some residents, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard in Abeokuta called on the state government to save their houses from being washed away.
81-year-old Pa. Lasisi Owonifari, at Ojewunmi Street, Abule Oloni area of Abeokuta, said this house is at the point of being washed away following the overflow of a stream in the community.
He said: “When I came to the community in 1993, this stream was very small. After this house, I had a plot of land beside it which has been claimed by the gully. Before we knew what was happening, it started expanding.
“I made all efforts to checkmate it, but the efforts proved abortive. On July 13, 2013, there was heavy rainfall and the gully could not accommodate the water. The gully claimed two out of eight rooms in my house. Three years later, another set of two rooms was also cut off. I am left with only four rooms”.
Another octogenarian, 81-year-old Pa. Jimoh Akinremi, at Abule Otun area of Lafenwa, Abeokuta, called on the government to as a matter of urgency commence channelisation of the area.
Akinremi noted that the immediate past administration of Senator Ibikunle Amosun had commenced the project but could not conclude it.
“I am appealing to the government of Prince Dapo Abiodun to come to our rescue”, he said
He added that the problem was compounded by water flowing from Rounder area of Abeokuta and Olosun River.
Also speaking, Elder Olude, Abule Otun, Lafenwa, whose house was among other houses currently threatened by gully erosion, said poor channelisation of water from Rounder, Olomore and Soyooye areas of Abeokuta is responsible for their situation.
A visit by Sunday Vanguard to St. John RCM Primary School, Lafenwa revealed that two out of four blocks of classrooms are under threat.
The foundation of the two blocks has been exposed. With the help of the priest in charge of St. John Catholic Church, Lafenwa, some classes have been moved to the church hall, pending the time the classrooms would be accessible and conducive for learning.
Residents of Akwa Ibom State, whose communities are ravaged by gully erosion, have expressed fears, calling on government to come to their rescue.
One Mr. David Bassey a commercial motorcyclist and indigene of Itam in Itu LGA, lamented the plight of the people of Ikot Adang Akpan village situated along Calabar-Itu Highway.
He said:”We have been participating in every election. We feel neglected. If you go down there you will see another gully.
“Maybe when the gullies finally reach the middle of the road the federal government will now come to our rescue.
“You can see for yourself how the erosion has encroached into our houses and we have been appealing to state, federal, and local governments but nobody is listening to us”.
Also, the family head of the village, Obong Etim Akpan, said: “The building you are looking at is my house. You can see that the whole village has been trapped because of this gully erosion. We can’t go in or come out. It is that bad.
“I want to call on federal and state governments to work together on this site. We are tired of making appeals without getting any response or do something about our suffering.
“This site where there is a gully, there used to about five houses there but the houses were carried away. Government officials have visited this site so many times but nothing has been done about it. “We are tired of seeing government officials coming to inspect the site without doing anything about it. For me, it doesn’t make sense. Anytime we appeal to them, they will come to take pictures and go after which nothing would be done.’’
Also, a gully erosion site at Udoinwang Street, off Nwaniba Road in Uyo has become worrisome to residents.
An official at Royal Gardens and Accommodation, who identified himself as George, said they had to shut down business as the gully encroached very close to the building.
“This has affected us badly because we shut down business. People cannot come here because the hotel building can fall anytime. When the hotel was built over 10 years ago this erosion was not there,” he added.
In Ikot Ekpene LGA, the areas most affected are Ikot Ekpene GRA, Ikot Ekpene Sports Club, Goretti Girls Secondary School and Spring Road.
An indigene of the area, Mr. Manasseh Umoette, lamented: “Those sites are fearful. And I am afraid if urgent measures are not taken to tackle those erosion sites, the areas may experience an earthquake.
“It is a serious menace and we are worried. For instance, a part of the Goretti Girls Secondary School on Spring Road is almost swallowed up by the gully erosion. There is no access road to Ikot Ekpene GRA, Ikot Ekpene Sports Club and Goretti Girls”
Speaking to Sunday Vanguard, the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Charles Udoh, said the state government in partnership with the World Bank has intervened in some erosion sites across the state.
He, however, said the state is not getting support from the Federal Government.
“The state government can’t do severe gully erosion jobs. We have zero federal presence in Akwa Ibom State. Calabar-Itu Road is an example. The federal government only carried out palliative effort on the. We are not happy and satisfied with the level of support we get from the federal government,’’ he added.