Many communities in the Southeast of Nigeria have had to contend with gully erosion over the years, with hundreds of people directly or indirectly affected. Beyond the environmental and ecological damage caused by erosion, its economic and humanitarian consequences are huge. People’s homes have been submerged, leaving them homeless and without shelter.
Farmlands, livestock, animals and plants have also been lost to erosion, which has become one of the worst environmental disasters suffered in the five Eastern states, namely: Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo. Roads, both federal and state-owned, and communication facilities have equally been destroyed.
In Anambra State, which is believed to have the highest number of erosion sites in the country, communities such as Umuchu in Aguata LGA, Nanka in Orumba North LGA, Ogidi and Oraukwu, both in Idemili North, and Alor and Nnobi in Idemili South LGA, have suffered severe environmental degradation from the erosion menace, counting their losses in billions of naira.
Many people have been forced to abandon their homes to escape from the rampaging erosion. In May last year, the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) reported that more than 11 families have been displaced by erosion in Alor, Nnobi and neighbouring Umudioka town, even as the rural agrarian communities were facing shrinking land mass.
But, respite came for Alor and Nnobi communities recently when the Federal Government awarded the contract for gully erosion control project in the two communities. Already, N1.4 billion has been approved for the project awarded to TELESIS firm, which is to be completed within 16 months, to stop further erosion encroachment in the two communities.
The joy of the people of Alor knew no bounds as they hailed their son, Senator Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, for his prompt intervention to save them from the ravaging ecological disaster. The traditional ruler of Alor community, Igwe Collins Ebelechukwu Chukwumesili (Ezediohamma III) praised Ngige for attracting the attention of the Federal Government to the plight of the people who were almost being rendered homeless by erosion.
Chukwumesili assured the contractor of maximum support of the community and pledged to ensure workers safety and protection.
The royal father, however, pleaded with the contractor to consider the youths of the community while hiring workers for the project.
In his remarks, the leader of the Ecological Fund team, Mr Udochi Nwachukwu explained that the phase one of the project involved temporary work, which was done previously.
Nwachukwu said that the Federal Government sent them to complete the project this time around.
“We don’t usually have abandoned projects, which means that this job will be completed on schedule, having been approved by the Federal Government.
“The project will last for 16 months and we have it at Alor, Nnobi and Ndannobi. Our coming to the sites was to formally introduce the contractor and the consultant so that your community will cooperate with them to ensure smooth delivery of the work.
“We don’t like frictions anywhere we are executing projects and if you feel there is any issue to be addressed, go to the consultant who will reach us in Abuja.
“We don’t want a situation where some people will start dictating to the contractor or the consultant. We have channels of communication to get to us, or you go through the person that attracted the project who is your son (Dr Ngige).
“We have more than 1,000 requests for intervention in various parts of the country. But your son, Ngige attracted this and we promise to deliver the job on schedule. We want to remind you that many people have been looking for this type of opportunity and could not get it and that is why you should appreciate this project,” Nwachukwu said.
The contractor, Mr Ben Okafor promised to deliver the job within the 16 months timeframe for its completion.
“We are going to work day and night if need be, to ensure that things are done right,” Okafor promised.
He also promised the youths of the community who have the expertise that they would be engaged during the project execution.
He urged the ecological fund office to also ensure that funds were promptly made available so as not to delay the job, adding that without funds, nothing much would be achieved.