The people of Ubulu-Uku, in Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State, are unhappy.
They are sad at the state of roads in the community. They are also crying out to the state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, and the World Bank to save a part of their town from being wiped out by erosion.
For many indigenes of the erosion-ravaged Onicha-Uku Quarters in Ubulu-Uku at home and in the diaspora, their homeland is turning to a place of bitterness and torment.
The people of the town, who are predominantly farmers and civil servants, said many people have run away from the land of their birth not because of upsurge in criminal activities, outbreak of epidemics or any untoward factors but because of government’s total neglect of the quarters. They claim that the area has been cut off from other communities in Ubulu-Uku and neighbouring towns by erosion.
The only road in and out of the area, which links the people to other communities in Delta and other states, has totally collapsed and is now a death trap.
According to Daily Sun’s findings, only the strong and courageous can walk through the road. Many have been injured, maimed and vehicles and other property have been damaged in the course of fording through the road.
Residents of Ubulu-Uku, who are predominantly farmers, can no longer access their farmlands. This has heightened fear of imminent hunger and starvation, as the only road that leads to their farms has been completely destroyed by erosion. There is also anxiety that, if work does not commence to salvage the road immediately, in a few months’ time, many people would be trapped in their homes, which are likely to be destroyed by erosion.
An America-based indigene of the town, Catherine Williams (nee Onwueme), came from the United States of America for the burial of her elder brother, Boniface, recently, but became more devastated as she could not get to her family compound with the three sport utility vehicles that were conveying her entourage and valuables.
The embittered Williams told Daily Sun: “I have never been embarrassed like this. I was coming home in company with my friends from the US and those who joined us from Lagos. We had a smooth ride to Delta State, and I was so happy that we arrived safely. Just to enter my street, Onicha-Uku Quarters, in Ubulu-Uku, we were not able, because of the dilapidated nature of our road.
“We had no alternative than to abandon our vehicles. We paid heavily for people to convey our loads by carrying our stuff on their heads, as neither carts nor motorcycles could pass through the road. To walk through the road was like walking through the valley of the shadow of death, because the road was in the worst state of dilapidation. We eventually arrived at my home but with minor injuries.
“We daughters and sons of Ubulu-Uku in diaspora are asking to know the offence that the Onicha-Uku and Onicha-Okpe people committed that they have been abandoned by the three tiers of government. They voted for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which is in control of Delta State. I wonder what the road will look like in one year’s time.
“On behalf of Ubulu-Uku people at home and in diaspora, I am appealing to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and the World Bank to do something drastic to avert a total extermination of our people.”
Another concerned indigene of the town, Phil Ngozi Ojeogwu, told Daily Sun: “The Ubulu-Uku/Onicha-Ugbo (Onicha-Uku/Onicha-Okpe) road has totally collapsed. It is impassable, dilapidated and in such an embarrassing, deplorable state that commercial motorcycle operators have refused to ply the road, even when enticed with huge amounts of money as fare. They see the road as a gateway to the orthopaedic hospital or traditional bonesetters’ homes.
“My experience last week was the apogee of unwarranted embarrassment. My husband, myself and our visitors went for a burial. When we got to the road to our quarters, a major road that leads to other communities and states, we could not pass. We had to park our cars about four kilometres to our house. One of our visitors broke his limbs. What a shame!”
On his part, Alex Grant, another native of Ubulu-Uku, said: “It is shameful that, right now, residents of Onicha-Uku and Onicha-Okpe quarters make wooden bridges across the centre of the road to enable them reach the main bridge to their homes. Onich-Uku road now has three gutters, one right, the other at the left and another in the centre of the road. The irony is you start experiencing the bad potion of the road from the frontage of a PDP stalwart, yet the party is in control of the state’s resources.”
Another indigene, Pius Monye, Oke Osisi 1, who spoke from Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States, was also full of anger. He told the reporter: “I am a freeborn of Onicha-Uku Quarters in Ubulu-Uku Kingdom. My message to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa is that we voted for him during the first and second tenure, so he should carry us along and treat us with respect and dignity.
“It is obvious that the contract for Onicha-Uku road was awarded and was said to have been completed on paper, but, till today, the road is an eyesore and so many of our people are keeping quiet out of fear of those big politicians who sabotaged the contracts.
“On behalf of Ubulu-Uku people in the diaspora, I am calling on Governor Okowa to look into the Onicha-Uku road matter. My people voted for you and you made a promise to take care of the road. But this same road that links Onicha-Ugbo and Ubulu-Uku is still abandoned till date. Please, declare a state of emergency on the road.”
A social critic, Patrick Omebele, who spoke from Maryland, USA, said: “It is the primary responsibility of the three tiers of government to take care of roads. Government should, consensually, determine who owns the road. If it is a state-owned road, the state should, through government intervention or Ecological Fund, repair the road.
“I travelled home two years ago for my mother’s burial. I was lucky that it was during the dry season, but I spent lots of money filling the road with sand. I don’t think, with the present condition of the road, any right-thinking person would dare the road.
“Government should declare a state of emergency on the road. The youths have tried their best. During dry season, they would sand-fill the road and it would be manageable, but the present state of the road is beyond what individuals can do.”
An 85-year-old grandmother, Mrs. Grace Okolie, said she was hopeful that something meaningful would be done soon on the road. She thanked the philanthropist, Mr. Pat Eziashi, for putting streetlights along the collapsed road.
She said: “If not for Pat, nobody would visit as from 8pm. At least, some courageous people manage to visit us, but, for old people like us, we are trapped in our homes. I am begging our son, Okowa, to assist us and repair the road so that, when I die, people will be able to come for my burial.”
Reacting to questions about the authorities’ seeming neglect of the town, deputy chairman of Aniocha LGA, Joe Ikenwe, told Daily Sun that the state government was doing something about the road and pleaded with the Onicha-Uku people to be calm. He said government’s efforts to repair the road had reached an advanced stage.
An official of the state government, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Delta State government and the World Bank were collaborating to repair the road.
“We have gone far. We have consulted and the consultant said it would cost us N1 billion. Delta State government will bring N500 million, while the World Bank will bring N500 million. Delta State’s money is ready. We are waiting for that of the World Bank to commence work,” he said.