Magnus Eze, Enugu
Residents of the neighbouring communities in Igboetiti and Uzo-Uwani Local Government areas of Enugu State, who are predominantly farmers; are still counting their losses following the sudden collapse of Adada River Bridge, linking the two council areas of Uzo-Uwani/Igboetiti Federal Constituency.
The incident, which occurred on August 14, 2019, severed communication between the two councils, as the bridge was the only link connecting them. It was caused by the release of water from Adada Dam being constructed by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, from where water supply for Nsukka urban and environs would be reticulated.
Member representing Uzo-Uwani/Igboetiti Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, Martins Oke, led state Assembly members for the two council areas and their local government chairmen to inspect the extent of damage.
Justin Ihedioha, manager of the construction company handling the dam project, said the bridge collapse was an accident as work on the dam was almost completed but for the well structure: “We wanted to build up water a little bit so that we can see the joints to test if there are leakages, then we complete it and come back to the well structure and we were monitoring the water rise.
“What happened on the August 14 was that workers came and started shouting there was a strange rise in the level of water. Before we could relieve the surge, the wall gave way and that is what caused the collapse. Palliative work has started to fix a bridge that would serve in the interim until a standard bridge is constructed across the river.”
Speaking after assessing the situation, Oke promised to bring the attention of both the federal and state governments to the plights faced by his constituents already separated by the bridge collapse. He lamented that some people can no longer access their farmlands and relations across the river:
“This accident has happened and there must be a way of doing something. They are already doing some palliatives but these cannot solve the problem. I was a little boy when the Government did this bridge after the civil war. We have been begging the state government to use its lean resources to do this road from Aku to Nkpologwu; now with what has happened, it has added the cost of doing a bridge. It should not be left for the state government alone. It is something that should involve state, federal governments and every person concerned.”
While thanking God that no life was lost due, the lawmaker disclosed: “Immediately we resume plenary to put pressure on the various agencies of the Federal Government to ensure that the bridge is constructed.” He promised affected farmers whose fishponds, food and cash crops were destroyed that they would be compensated.
Chairman of Uzo-Uwani LG, Mr Fidelis Ani, who noted that his area was erosion prone, lamented that an entire ward, Akpugo, was severed and can no longer be accessed by the rest of the council wards.
He appealed for urgent intervention from the national and state emergency management agencies for a standard bridge and road reconstructions in the affected area, as well as compensation of the affected farmers whose livelihoods had been destroyed.
“By this time next year, there would be hunger there because livelihood have been destroyed. So, we need intervention in forms of cash and food and enabling us put up the road. The dam is being done by the Federal Government and there seems to be some professional negligence. Ordinarily, this sort of thing shouldn’t have happened; so, a more critical measure should be taken to ensure that there’s no future occurrence.”
Similarly, his Igbo Etiti colleague, Mr Malachy Agbo, bemoaned that his people who have their farms in Uzo-Uwani have been cut off and could no longer access their farmlands. He warned that the people might abandon farming if they were not encouraged by way of assistance from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and its state counterpart.