April 24, 2024

Anxieties in Abia communities over erosion menace as rainy season sets in

Gully erosion threatens 350 buildings, stadium, cuts federal road in Anambra

…Past govt visited us, did nothing — Monarch, PG lament; cries for Otti’s intervention

By Steve Oko

THERE is palpable fear and worry across erosion-prone communities in Abia State over erosion menace as the rains begin to set in. 

Despite previous cries for help, a number of the affected communities are yet to get any government intervention.

Abia reportedly has over 300 active erosion sites, some of them being life-threatening. This is more pronounced in communities such as Umunneochi, Isuikwuato, Bende, Umuahia North, Umuahia South, and Ikwuano Local Government Areas as well as parts of Aba.

The road leading to Akara in Isuikwuato from the Abia State University Uturu, at various points, was cut off by erosion, some of which are yet to be fully fixed. Similarly, many internal roads in Umunneochi and Bende especially the Itumbuzo/Arochukwu road are under serious erosion threat. Many communities and buildings in Umuahia, the state capital especially, in the Amuzukwu area; Mbom Ibeku, Old Umuahia, among others, are equally under threat of erosion.

For some years now, many houses in Amamba Uzuakoli Autonomous Community in Bende Council Area have been deserted as a result of gully erosion ravaging the agrarian community. At least five buildings have already caved into the gullies and many others are presently under imminent threat. Last year, a heavy rain in the community led to the collapse of a two-storey building. The previous year, another two-storey building completely caved into a gulley in the community. Presently, the agrarian community is still  under existential threat by erosion.

President General of Uzoamaewu in Uzuakoli community, Elder Chilasa Kanu, told  South East Voice  that the menace has defied every effort by the community to checkmate it. He confirmed that many locals have deserted the community to avoid being swept away by erosion, and called on the state Government to intervene and save the community. “We are overwhelmed. Efforts to control this menace have taken so much from us, we want the Government to come to our rescue”, he lamented.

Kanu, who regretted that efforts by the community to get the attention of  previous administration in the state fell on deaf ears, appealed to Governor Alex Otti to come to their rescue. “This erosion started about four years ago, and the community has done everything humanly possible to see if we could put a stop to it but without success. We have spent over N40 million with the collaborative efforts of our sons and daughters in the Diaspora without success. 

“All the pleas we made to the previous administration under Okezie Ikpeazu yielded no result. No intervention whatsoever has come to us either from the Federal or State Government. In 2022, the Governor sent his Deputy who came here and told us that erosion control is the job of the Federal Government, and he left.

“Our House of Representatives member, Rt. Hon Ben Kalu who is now the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives also visited but did nothing.  Senator Orji Uzor Kalu also came, saw it, and did nothing. Since then no intervention has come from anybody and the menace is getting worse. “We no longer go to the farm because our farm road has been cut off by erosion. Besides, the erosion has rendered many families homeless”, he lamented.

READ ALSO: Former Bayelsa LG boss hails move to deal with erosion

Also, Oro Autonomous Community in Iberenta , Ikwuano council has cried out for Government intervention over the devastating gully erosion posing existential threat to them. Several buildings including the Assemblies Church in the community are presently under severe threat of the erosion gully at the verge of cutting off some villages in the community. Iberenta Ikwuano, a major cocoa and cassava producing area in Abia State, is also famous in plantain and palm oil production.

The traditional ruler of the community, Dr. Stanley Ijenwa,  SEV  that the menace had made life unbearable for his subjects. He noted that the menace which had  been disturbing them for many decades, had defied communal efforts by his subjects to put it under control. According to him, the pathway leading to the community’s only source of spring water has been washed away, while two villages— Oboro and Nkalunta, as well as Iberenta Community Primary School have almost been cut off, hampering evacuation of agricultural produce from the agrarian community.

“We have seen hell because of gully erosion, and we can no longer control it. Some Government officials have been here in the past but after visiting us, they never did anything.

“We are begging Gov. Alex Otti and the Federal Government to please save us from this pending disaster. We have a serious ecological challenge that demands urgent intervention”, Eze Ijenwa appealed.

One of the stakeholders in the community, Pascal Atuma, described the situation as very worrisome.

Decrying the ripple effects of erosion menace and bad roads on the community, the film actor regretted that public health workers and teachers now reject postings to the community due to bad access roads. He also said that the locals including their Diaspora kinsmen had sunk in millions of Naira to put the menace under control but without success.

According to him the community has already banned sinking of boreholes as part of proactive measures to stop any activity capable of triggering erosion.

“My community has been grossly neglected by the Government despite being the food basket of Abia State. If you hear that Abia produces cocoa, this is where it comes from. We also produce cassava and palm oil in large quantities yet our road is a complete mess.  “If it rains, you can’t access here for two days. Teachers and health workers reject postings to my community due to bad roads, and it has serious implications on our people. 

“On our own we have done our best with the support of our people in the Diaspora. We are now overwhelmed. This is an ecological disaster. Government should please come to our rescue. “If it were in other climes, by now many houses should have been evacuated. Government should not wait for a time people are buried alive by erosion before they intervene”.

Chief Lucky Mpama regretted that despite previous appeals for Government intervention, the locals had been left to their fate and appealed to Governor Otti “as a listening Governor”, to swiftly intervene to save the locals from more trauma. “NEWMAP has been here but did nothing. We know Governor Otti’s Government is not like the previous one. Let him please come quickly and save us”. As some of the affected communities  accused previous Governments of insensitivity to their plights, efforts to find out what the current administration is doing to tackle  the menace were not successful.

When contacted, Commissioner for Environment Philemon Ogbonna requested that the questions be sent to him which was done at once but no response was received as at the time of filing the report.

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