Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
For the people of Okwu community in Ata, Ikeduru Local Government Area of Imo State, it is as if they have severed every relationship with their neighbours, no thanks to two dilapidated bridges in the area. Again, their case is worsened by gully erosion which further separated even the eight villages that make up Okwu autonomous community.
The villages are Akpele, Umulowo, Umuchima, Ogada, Umuehihi, Umumkpe, Umunoha and Umuocham.
Daily Sun learnt that people in some of villages do not get to see one another other in a year because of the Onumiri Akpata and Onumiri Omu bridges that are seriously yearning for repair.
The communication gap between them is extremely unimaginable. Indigenes of Umumkpe especially who live across the Onumiri Akpata bridge rarely come to the popular market of the community, Afor Okwu, due to the impassable bridge and bad road.
If they must attend the market, they journey through Mbaise, spending over thirty minutes to get to the market situated in their own community.
The Onumiri Akpata and Onumiri Omu Bridges are so important to the people of Okwu because they are the gateway linking them to their neighbours of Mbaise, Emekwukwu, Azara Egbelu and environs. The bridge can also connect them to Aba road.
Our correspondent gathered that the neighbouring villages of Umunoha Obiloji can no longer transact business or exchange traditional rites with their brothers and sisters of Owu Amakohia and Amuzi, simply because they have to cross the Onumiri Omu Bridge to do that.
Churches in the area are not finding it easy as the priests and worshippers undergo rigorous processes to participate services on Sunday especially the Catholic Church.
To make sure their members attend church, the parish priest journeys through Mbaise to Okwu just to administer mass to the catholic faithful in Okwu, which he continues in his extra service mass of 6am and 9 am.
Although some indigenes risk the bridges to get across to their neighbours, that could only be during the dry season because the sloppy road to the bridge is always flooded thereby making it impassable.
When Daily Sun visited the bridges in company of the deputy chairman of Okwu town union, Mr Emmanuel Ibeh and another resident, Mr Lucky Odunwa, the road leading to the bridge was still friendly.
Ibeh, while conducting our reporter on the bridge, disclosed that it is over sixty years old having been constructed by the then colonial administration.
The bridge which was built with strong metals; presently constitutes great danger to anybody attempting to use it as the base covered with metal is now patched with woods.
Ibeh, who is also the Commander, Imo Security Watch, said the dilapidated bridge has slowed down economic activities in Okwu as well as reduced learning in the community.
“This Bridge has been there before I was born, it was motorable before, but as you can now see, the motorcycles can hardly pass through without taking a risk; some people had fallen off the bridge before and drowned in the stream.”
The community leader while calling on the government to come to their aid revealed that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) had inspected the road with a promise to rehabilitate it but all to no avail.
He disclosed that the community sometimes embark on self-help to repair the bridge for temporary usage. Ibeh also informed that the road leading to the bridges was once graded by an illustrious son, one Uwalaka, which made it passable when it was not raining.
“I beg the state government, NDDC and well-meaning Nigerians to come and help us; we are really suffering, the community hospital has stopped functioning because of the bridges,” he said.