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Help! We’ve Lost Our People, Schools, Churches, Markets To Gully Erosion
JOE NWACHUKWU in OWERRI reports that except governments at all levels come to the rescue of residents of some communities in Imo State who are under the yoke of debilitating erosion activities, they may be entirely cut off from their kinsmen.
Some erosions, which some communities witness today, are man-made, while, perhaps, others occur as communities continue to develop. The magnitude of disasters which erosion gullies cause are unbelievable, as some people may wake up in the morning, after a heavy downpour the previous night, only to discover that erosion has severed them from their neighbouring villages.
This is the real plight of communities in Imo State, who are constantly being threatened by the erosion menace, which requires an urgent attention of the Federal Government, through the Ecological Fund. One of such communities facing the likelihood of being washed away by erosion are the Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, Imo State, a notable community in Owerri West Local Government Area, a few kilometres away from the state capital, Owerri. Environment’s investigations on the gully erosion situation revealed that public and private buildings, including primary schools, are already giving way to erosion, measuring about 35 metres deep.
The community has been cut off from its neighbouring villages more than 16 years ago, after the collapse of the bridge linking the communities. Significantly, the bridge also links a major bye-pass to Owerri-Aba road, the Federal university of Technology, Owerri (FUTO); Federal Polytechnic, Owerri, and the recent Naze Industrial Cluster established by the administration of Governor Ikedi Ohakim.
Community leaders in the area have made desperate collective and individual efforts to save their schools and private homes from collapsing into the gullies, but to no avail. The urgent attention it deserves from authorities concerned seems not there, as the people now watch helplessly while the menace consumes their community.
The areas have already been visited for assistance by the immediate past president-general of Nekede Development Union, Chidi Uneze, the Imo State Ministry of Environment, Anambra-Imo River Basin Authority, the National Assembly and Office of Director of Soil Erosion.
According to Uneze, the former President Olusegun Obasanjo government was said to have approved N150 million for the first phase of the project. He explained that the approval was communicated to him by the soil erosion director, Yahaya. The N150 million was the original proposal made by the Anambra-Imo River Basin Authority to solve ecological problems affecting his community.
Mr. Uneze pointed out that the problem of his community began in the 80s when the Federal Government awarded a minor erosion contract to a contractor which he described as incapable to executing the job.
He refuted allegations that Chris Irechukwu, the former secretary to Imo State government, who accidentally comes from the area, contributed to the non-completion of the project by allegedly collecting his own share of the money meant for the project.
According to him, the importance of the collapsed road in question is enormous. The erosion, if checked, would serve as a major by-pass from Owerri to Aba and other parts of the South-East and South-South areas. The bridge, if re-constructed and the land recovered, would solve the traffic jam usually experienced in Owerri-Aba road.
The affected area, as revealed to Environment, if recovered, would solve the problem of people and motorists who pass through the Aba road before heading to FUTO, the polytechnic and Naze Industrial area.
Also speaking in the same vein, Mr. Chris Ajoku, an indigene of the community, said the devastation of the erosion was so severe that in the past 10 years, close to 10 lives had been lost to the natural disaster.
Similarly, some storey buildings were said to have been swept away by the gully erosion. They included some churches, schools and market places. St. Theresa’s Primary School, Umuoma, may soon join the queue of structures caving into the deep gully.
He pointed out that the contractors, who handled the control and construction of the gully erosion, had compounded the problem by mismanaging funds earmarked to arrest the trend.
Perhaps due to the deepening activities of erosion in recent times in the area, the attention of the Senator, representing Imo Central District, Senator (Mrs) Chris Anyanwu, was solicited. Through her, the Federal Government, in 2010, started the first phase of bridging the erosion gap between Umuoma-Umuezerokam.
The erosion in Amucha in NJaba Local Government Area of Imo State can be regarded as the worst erosion in the entire South-East region of Nigeria.
It is recalled that in 1983 when President Shehu Shagari visited Amucha erosion site with his entourage, he was moved to tears by the agony and pains he saw on the faces of Amucha people.
However, after his three-day visit to the then old Imo State, as soon as he returned to Lagos, he announced the commencement of work to tackle the Amucha erosion.
However when the process of completion of the contract work was about to be sealed, the military regime of Buhari/Idiagbo came into being.
With the suspension of the constitution, the Amucha community lost the opportunity that would have put paid to their sleepless nights.
In the past years, more than 50 families in the community have had to pack away from their ancestral homes not because they wanted to relocate, but due to ravaging gully erosion taking its toll on the communities.
The gullies, which measure about 120 metres deep and 40 metres wide, caused by heavy downpours, have swallowed up homes and farmlands.
Mr. Desmond Nworji, who is a lecturer, born and bred in Amucha, said that the gullies had completely destroyed the community. He pointed out that his family house was the first to be swallowed up by the erosion.
According to him, his present abode was built by his father after erosion swept away their ancestral home. As of today, most people in Amucha community have no land to farm anymore because of gullies created by erosion.
Another villager, Humphery Njiagwu, lamented that life in Amucha might not be the same again. According to him, before the Nigerian civil war, there was a river in the village where youths went fishing. But today, the reverse is the case as erosion has ruined the whole place.
Meanwhile, the non-availability of land to carry out farming activities in Amucha, has led most people to go in search of white collar jobs, while others have engaged in trading and schooling as the case may be. Many people have also resorted to petty trading and commercial cycling, as means of survival.Share