This photo was used for illustration

By Emem Idio

ANYAMA-OGBIA- RESIDENTS of Anyama-Ogbia community in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, are living with their hearts in their mouths following a devastating coastal erosion that has submerged over 500 houses and landing jetties in the riverside settlement with 18 villages, over the decades.

At the moment, historic infrastructure and structures built in the community dating back to pre-independence era are in ruins, buried in the river bed.

Submerged were the St. James Anglican Church established in 1910;  Customary Court established in 1935;  traditional oil mill established in 1955; rice mill established in 1975; Primary School; Police Post; Post Office established 1935; and over 500 houses.

How family escaped death

A victim and primary school teacher in her 50s, Mrs. Alice Adigbo, displaced with her seven children, said: “But for divine intervention, I and my household would have perished in 2014 when coastal erosion swept part of my family’s seven-bedroom apartment into the river   while we were sleeping.”

Currently taking refuge at a secondary school in the community still under the threat of coastal erosion, she disclosed: “My mother and father have a seven- bedroom apartment which I and my seven children reside.   In 2014, the day that the erosion got to our house, we were sleeping at night, I and my children, and around midnight, we began to hear a  loud sound and one of my daughters woke me up, saying mummy, are you hearing this sound?

“Immediately, I woke up my other children; as we woke up, we saw that our apartment was falling into the river with some of our properties.

“If not for God’s intervention, I would have lost my children in the river. Presently, we are taking refuge at the community’s secondary school because I do not have money to build a new house and the secondary school is also under threat from the coastal erosion.

“Two weeks ago, we were in the classroom when we heard a violent sound and when we ran to the waterside, we saw a four-room apartment going down the river.”

Over 500 houses, farmlands destroyed

65-year-old Head of Compound Chiefs in Anyama, Chief Ase Aduku-Humphrey,    regretted that about a kilometer of the town founded in 1655, over 500 houses and three landing jetties are all now under water, lost permanently to the ravaging coastal erosion.

“The houses washed away are uncountable because where we are now is the new site, what we know as the old and original Anyama has been washed away long ago. Land here now is very expensive because we have lost so much land, we are finding it very difficult to build houses.”

71-year-old Madam Mercy Seighbofa, who corroborated his claim, said coastal erosion has wreaked havoc as farmlands and induced hunger and poverty in the area.

Shoreline project deserted

Secretary-General, Anyama Owei Diaspora, Mr. Potency Owei, in a chat with NDV, called on Bayelsa State and Federal governments and the Niger-Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to resume work on the abandoned shoreline protection project awarded to Dredging International Company in 2011 to mitigate the erosion problem.

“We are calling on the Federal Government, state government, NDDC, Ministry of Niger-Delta Affairs and other international agencies to come to our aid and save us from extinction. We can no longer sleep with our two eyes closed. Are we not part of Bayelsa State? aAre we not part of Niger-Delta? aAre we not part of Nigeria? Why are we suffering like this?

Matter of urgency – Morris, Nengi

Head of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of Nigeria, ERA/FOEN, Bayelsa State, Alagoa Morris, described the living condition of the Anyama-Ogbia people as pathetic, urging the authorities to as a matter of urgency provide solution to the ecological challenge.

Second national Vice- President, Ijaw National Congress, INC, Chief Nengi, who described the menace as serious ecological disaster, expressed dissatisfaction at the abandonment of the shore protection, enjoining NDDC to expedite resumption of work.

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