Ndegwu, Orogwe, Amakohia-Ubi and Irete communities, all in Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo state, strongly believe that they have been deleted from the map of the state.
Irrespective of their closeness to Owerri, the state capital, yet, they have nothing to show for it having been deprived of social amenities, especially good road. Even the immediate past governor’s urban renewal programme eluded them.
For years, movement within the communities is somewhat restricted because the road connecting them is in impassable state to the point that residents find it difficult to even exchange social visits including during burial and marriage ceremonies.
Daily Sun gathered that criminals have taken advantage of the deplorable road to perpetrate all sorts of evil as residents resort to using the only route available, sometimes on foot or motorcycle. The hoodlums lurk around the bushes along the bad roads to attack traders, motorcyclists and also stranded strangers.
Orogwe/Ndegwu and Irete/Ndegwu roads are the most vulnerable. Residents alleged that the criminals usually come from neighbouring communities of Agba and Ohaji/Egbema to attack their victims with guns and cutlasses.
Their targets most times, are owners of new motorcycles and traders heading to the market early in the morning; whom they dispossess of their money and motorcycles.
One of the victims, Kiliwi Amadi who recounted his ordeal to our correspondent said: “It is not a good thing to encounter. I was going to buy bread which I sell at Irete at about 6am because that is the time to meet up.
“When I got to that Ndegwu/Umunomo road linking Orogwe; I some people jumped out from a nearby bush brandishing guns and machete, they ordered me to give them my money which I did, afterwards, they escaped with my motorbike; that was how I ended the day going back home.”
Another victim, who narrated his experience at Amakohia-Ubi road, Obinna Akujiobi said that he was dispossessed of his N200, 000 along the bad spot. He also said that they beat him to stupor before bolting away with his motorbike.
Our visit showed that the condition of the road was worsened by the heavy flood which left stagnant water there, thereby making the people of the area to live in perpetual fear.
One of the things that happen once it rained late in the evening say about 7pm or 8pm, is that returning home becomes suicide mission for residents who went to work or other businesses as no motorcyclist would agree to take the risk of plying the routes. So, trekking would be the only option.
It is so deplorable that many indigenes of the area in diaspora have accepted their fate and remained where they live. There are also people there whom erosion prevents from gaining entrance into their homes.
A victim, Fidel Onwuneme from Orogwe, popularly known as “Barbwire”, has called on the Federal Government to come to their aid.
The leader of the famous Imo Brothers International Band of Owerri (IBO), described their case as that of those close yet far from the capital city: “I have been to places like Ohaji/Egbema and saw how roads are tarred to even their farmlands, when are they going to remember us, we are also from Owerri, Obodo na ekpe akwa Umu nneya ona agba oto (community that are known for tailoring, do their people go naked),” Onwuneme asked rhetorically in Igbo.
Another indigene of Amakohia-Ubi, Calistus Igbo also appealed to the state government to quickly come to their rescue: “Every day I make N2 000 but at the end of the day I spend N800 repairing my motorbike. We have been living like this for ages and no government has come to our rescue”.
Palliative measures by the communities such as filling the stagnant water with sands and making drainages around the flooded areas to reduce the flooding, has not actually been effective.
Regardless, as hopeless as their case could be, the communities are not losing hope one bit. Recently, the House of Representatives member for Owerri Federal Constituency, Ikenna Elezianya, brought some intervention by grading the Ndegwu/Orogwe and Amakohia-Ubi roads.
Unfortunately, the rains did not allow his effort to last as the road was washed away after a while.
In an interview with Daily Sun, the lawmaker said: “I have not been sleeping over this matter, it’s a promise I made to my people, as we speak, the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) has awarded an N18 million contract for the roads but that is too small. I came in when the budget of the year has been made, but even when I was not a member, I made sure FERMA included it this year.
“Eke Orogwe, Ndegwu is in the budget now but the problem is that because I wasn’t there as a member, they couldn’t find a substantial amount for that road, but for this year’s budget, they have only N18million for it.”