•We need help, or we’ll be wiped out soon, community leaders plead
David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
Except there is urgent intervention by government between now and the commencement of the rainy season, trouble looms for residents of Umuogbo Obiofia, a community in Nnewichi, Nnewi North Local Government Area of Anambra State.
There are fears that the community would be completely destroyed soon and the people displaced by a devastating erosion that has continued to threaten buildings in the area.
Residents of the community, who raised the alarm recently, pleaded with the Anambra State government and other relevant agencies not to allow them to be consumed by erosion. In their words, there is no other place they could run to.
President-general of Nnewi community, Lagos branch, Chief Emma Orji Chukwu, told the reporter that his house was one of those that might soon be swept away by the rampaging erosion. He returned to Nnewi recently, where he joined those at home to make a passionate appeal to the Federal Government, Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State, the World Bank and other stakeholders in the area to make haste and rescue the community from the yawning jaws of erosion.
“The erosion site is at the heart of the community. Many farmlands have been wiped away. Many cash crops and economic trees of our people have been destroyed and human lives lost since the problem started. Chief Hycent Orji Chukwu, my uncle, died because of the erosion menace. His grave and that of his wife have been swept away by the erosion. My house, a castle I have here in the village, is under very serious threat as the erosion is only a few metres away from it.
“We have been doing our best through communal efforts to fix the problem but it has gone beyond what the community can handle. Governor Obiano, during the last gubernatorial election campaign, told us that he had made a down-payment of N1 billion through an international agency as counterpart funding to help handle the erosion menace. But we are worried that the erosion has continued to advance towards our residential buildings. At the last count, eight houses have been consumed by the erosion,” Chukwu lamented.
Chukwu, who is also the current president of Nnewi Improvement Union, said he was worried that contracts for the curtailment of the erosion crisis in other communities like Nkpor and Obosi who had the same erosion problem had been signed. He regretted that the contract for his own community was yet to be signed. He said that his community was confused and could not figure out what was happening.
Chukwu expressed gratitude to Willie Onyejekwu, one of the governor’s aides, for his concern on the community’s erosion problem. He said that Onyejekwu had spent his time and effort in many ways to assist the community.
Chairman of works at the erosion site, Mr. Innocent Obodoefuna, said the erosion started as a gully at a spot he called Mmiri Agu in 1983. He explained that successive administrations in Anambra State had visited the site without doing much, even as members of the community had spent over N40 million for all sorts of palliatives, but to no avail.
He said that Governor Obiano had shown considerable interest to assist the community by bringing the attention of the World Bank to the erosion problem. He added that it was for that reason that members of the community massively voted for Obiano’s second term in office. He, therefore, appealed to the governor not to relent. He told the reporter that the World Bank had also promised to start work very soon at the site.
“But our fear is delay, because delay is dangerous. The community has already encountered great human and material losses and that is why we are calling for action before this year’s rainy season actually sets in,” he said.
Obodoefuna said some people from the community, including Uchechukwu Uzoeto, Nwanyi Nkwo, Cyril Ojukwu, Oforkile and Assistant Superintendent of Police Enem had fallen victim to the erosion menace. He said some of those people died as a result of the erosion and their graves were washed away and could no longer be identified.
Chairman of Umuogbo Development Union, Mr. Tony Nzewi, stated that what the community expected from the federal and state governments was to face the ecological problem at the community squarely before it is removed from the map of Anambra State.
The site engineer, Metu Hilary, said his company had been trying to divert water that came into the big valleys already created by the erosion. He noted that the communal efforts had been wonderful without which the entire community would have been washed away by now.