From Obinna Odogwu, Ekwulobia
In Anambra State, many communities live in fear of the negative impacts of erosion and landslide. Many houses, economic trees, farmlands and other valuables have been destroyed by erosion.
At the moment, three of the communities are under serious threat. If something urgent was not done their existence might become history in no distant future. The communities are: Abagana, Awka, and Nkpor, in Njikoka, Awka South and Idemili North local government areas respectively.
Already, the Nigerian Erosion and Watershed Management Programme (NEWMAP), an agency partly funded by the Federal Government and the World Bank to foresee, among others, the construction and bioremediation of the affected communities in the country, has mobilized contractors to these sites.
But the residents of these communities are not happy as they claimed that the contractors are doing shoddy jobs just as they are slow in carrying out the assignment. Some of them expressly dismissed NEWMAP and its contractors, lamenting that rather than remedy the situation, they have succeeded in worsening their predicament.
Daily Sun toured some of the erosion sites and spoke with the affected residents, as well as the Project Coordinator of NEWMAP in the state, Mr Michael Ivenso. He acknowledged the lamentations and observations of the residents, saying the organisation was making spirited efforts to tackle the shortcomings.
According to the documents made available, there are four erosion sites under construction valued at N1,506,135,097. A breakdown of the figure showed that Umudunu/Uruokpala erosion site in Abagana got N570,079,295. St. Thomas Aquinas & Neros Plaza erosion site, Awka got N344,909,586; Amachalla village erosion site, Awka, got N372,038,676, while the New Niger Heritage erosion site, Omagba, Nkpor got N219,107,539.
Abagana community erosion site
There were no major machines on site to show that work was ongoing. Some of the residents who ventilated their anger lamented that the contracting firm had left the project worse than it met it.
Chief Patrick Chukwumelu, a community leader, living in the erosion ravaged Uruokpala village, recalled:
“When that erosion started (over 30 years ago), we intervened, but along the line it deteriorated further. Government brought NEWMAP people, but it seems that the contracting firm that came with them is determined to worsen our predicament.
“This erosion has almost sacked us from this place. Already, it has collapsed some buildings, slid some stationed cars into the ditch and done some other damage. It has cut off this major road as you can see. The situation is now worse since they stopped work on the erosion site.
“I am using wheelchair as you can see; so you can imagine how painful it is for me to go through bumpy route through the back just to get to the main road. Some of our children have stopped schooling because of the devastating effects of erosion.”
Another resident, Mr. Ernest Nwoye Okoye, said: “You move about with caution, sleep with caution, and, in fact, practically everything with great caution. The ground you tread on might slide away even as you walk on it. That is to tell you how bad it has become.”
Miss Chiamaka Oneka, whose family building was just few steps to the large gully, disclosed that their greatest fear was their little kids who often strayed towards the deep gully: “This erosion which initially started some distance away from our house is now almost at the building’s foundation. It keeps expanding.
“To worsen our matter, we have little kids here. So, you can imagine the situation and its surrounding fears. A car once fell into the ditch. Immediately the owner alighted from the vehicle, the ground slid off.” She lamented that some people have turned the erosion site into a dumpsite, which she blamed on the absence of the contracting firm on site:
“The odour oozing out from that ditch is horrible. The sad thing is that the contracting firm is not serious with the job. In fact, they have succeeded in making it worse than they met it. Before, the erosion was not close to our house. They were the people that expanded it with their caterpillar and abandoned it.”
Ivenso admitted: “Abagana is really one of our sour points in all honesty. It is something we are trying to correct.”
Omagba erosion site, Nkpor
Although Omagba erosion site is relatively better than the Abagana experience, the site, which falls within the Nkpor/Onitsha commercial centre has shut down several business ventures. Some residential homes around it are undoubtedly under threat.
Some residential buildings had at the onset of the menace collapsed while economic trees were destroyed. Residents blamed the massive expansion of the erosion site on the inability of government to nip the menace in the bud when it started.
New Niger Heritage erosion site
The New Niger Heritage erosion site, Omagba, Nkpor was awarded for N219,107,539; and it has two phases: Omagba I & II. Residents were sharply divided on the performance of the contracting firm and NEWMAP. While some of them berated their remedial efforts, some others applauded them.
During the last inspection, the World Bank Environmental Specialist, Dr. Amos Abu, carpeted the contractor for poor performance. He declared that the contractor had not executed the project in line with the specifications.
Abu who is also the task team leader for NEWMAP national office, was particularly furious that the chief contractor of the construction company was not on site to answer critical questions bothering on their work despite being informed about the supervision.
Ivenso agreed: “Omagba II has not done very well. Specifically, there is additional work that we gave them to accommodate. We extended the contract based on the community’s request. But we recognize here that the contractor has been extremely slow in delivering that work. When that contract expires, we will revoke that section of the contract.”
St. Thomas Aquinas & Neros Plaza erosion site
The situation at St. Thomas Aquinas & Neros Plaza erosion site, Awka is relatively better.
Before the commencement of the remedial work, about three buildings were sunk by the erosion while economic trees were destroyed. However, residents alleged that the contractor woke up from his slumber after the World Bank team who came on supervision condemned the work. It was awarded at the cost of N344,909,586.
Comrade Sure Chibuzor Okafor is one of the residents: “On their assessment, I will say so far so good because I don’t know the amount of money they budgeted for this. But I must confess that they are slow in the work. I heard that World Bank people intervened and that’s why they seemed to be doing something. For example, the first culvert they did here was below standard. I think the World Bank people ordered them to remove it and build better one.
“In fact, the work they did previously was substandard. Before the intervention of the NEWMAP, we were having a lot of difficulties, especially when it rained because the only road that leads to my house is being threatened by erosion. And any time it rains, our house is usually flooded.
“When the NEWMAP came, we thought that they wanted to build a canal from Neros Plaza down to that culvert over there like the one done in Iyiagu. That one is better. But that’s not what we’ve seen now.”
Another resident, Mrs. Kate Igboka, agreed that the contractor was very slow. She lamented that erosion menace was giving them sleepless nights: “Because of the devastating effects of erosion in this place, this our one-storey building has cracks all over. We keep making patchwork and reinforcing the foundation. Because of the topography, erosion keeps pulling the foundation.”
Meanwhile, fire destroyed some parts of the bioremediation works done on the site.
Amachalla erosion site, Awka
At Amachalla erosion site, Awka awarded at the tune of N372,038,676, it was a different story. Although the contracting firm has relatively done well, the tail of the erosion site seems to have been abandoned. The second phase of the main project has not been touched; a situation that may pose greater risk to the residents.
Ivenso narrated: “The delivery dates for the contracts have long expired. And it has been renewed over and over again, like three times. We are giving them time to be able to catch up and complete the work. But we are still having some challenges with the contractors ranging from equipment to manpower and all sorts of things. The state is really getting frustrated with the contracts.
“Abagana is really one of our sour points in all honesty. It is something we are trying to correct. Omagba II has not done very well. We are really expecting the contractor handling Neros Plaza erosion site to really complete and move away from there. There are additional works we are doing as requested by the community.”
When Daily Sun sought to know why those living in the erosion channel at the St. Aquinas site were allowed to stay despite being paid to vacate, he said:
“Nobody is living inside the gully. Everybody who was paid to vacate his or her house vacated and so the settlements are around flood plain. The settlements are around it and not inside of it.”