Raphael Ede, Enugu
Life for residents of Gabon Camp in Emene, an outskirt of Enugu State exemplifies the Hobbesian state of nature, where hope for better life is dashed, life is brutal and short with daily struggle for survival as permanent features.
Mention of Gabon in the state ordinarily may sound strange because Gabon is a sovereign state on the West Coast of Central Africa bordered by Equatorial Guinea to the Northwest, Cameroon to the North, the Republic of the Congo on the East and South and the Gulf of Guinea to the West.
But the Gabon of Enugu State is a forgotten settlement with no access road, no health facility either owned by the government or private individual, no potable water, no school, no electricity; in short, without any form of social amenity.
The settlement located behind the Akanu Ibam International Airport, Enugu with a population of about 2,000-3,000 is dominated by mainly people from the Ezza clan in Ebonyi State.
To access the Gabon Settlement, one has to first get to Emenite Company and then take left by the rail-line towards the bank of Ekulu River, before trekking over two kilometres by the bank to get to the Gabon Camp.
In the shanty settlement, expectant mothers go through hell before delivery due largely to lack of medical infrastructure.
Similarly, school children in the settlement trek over three hours to attend school under the scourging sun or rain.
The lot of the people is a real case of hell on earth judging from their daily experiences of hardship caused by absence of basic infrastructure and social amenities.
However, the community was full of joy when recently wife of the governor, Mrs. Monica Ugwuanyi discovered the settlement and carried her medical outreach to them, which was the first of its kind in the history of the settlement.
Recently too, the Nigerian Air Force extended its medical outreach to the community.
President of the Gabon Women Association, Mrs. Elizabeth Imo, told Oriental News that the community would ever remain grateful to the wife of the governor and their landlord, the Nigerian Air Force for remembering that such a place exists.
“We suffer so much that if anybody is sick, in the effort to get the person to the hospital, sometimes the person will die on the road. It is more worrisome when a woman is in labour, for instance, in the midnight, we start looking for a man that can accompany us to carry such a person in a wheelbarrow to the hospital. You can image carrying somebody in the midnight on wheelbarrow for two hours. That is our lot in this Gabon community.
“At times while we are trying to take such person to the hospital, the person will die on the way and we turn and bring the person back. This is majorly because we don’t have access road, and a woman in labour cannot seat on motorcycle popularly known as Okada so the only means to take such person out is by a wheelbarrow.
“For instance, on the day I was in labour, I could not walk, it was the wheelbarrow that was used to carry me from this camp to the town, but I couldn’t reach the birth attendant’s place before I delivered my baby. I named her ‘Chinasaokwu’, meaning that God answered me.
“We don’t have school- either nursery or primary- in this community. When it rains, our children will not go to school as a result of no access road.
“We don’t have electricity; look at the condition of our houses. You don’t build anything outside this mud houses,” Mrs. Imo narrated.
On why the settlement was called Gabon Camp, Mr. Okwute Nwakporo told Oriental News that the community was called Gabon Camp because they wanted good things there like other communities around.
His words: “We call this place Gabon because there was a time the only access road was walled or blocked with wall perimeter fence to the bank of the Ekulu River by the Nigerian Airport Authority (NAA) and we had no other means of going out or connecting to Emene except by crossing the Ekulu River before we can get to Emene.
“That is why we started calling it Gabon village because in one flank we are blocked with perimeter fencing and in another flank it is a river, and for you to survive you must cross it. Gabon here means community blocked or fenced up.
“The day it rains we will not come out because flood can swallow you. We thank God that NAA has seen our suffering and provided the community with a track road now.”
Former youth leader, Mr. Nweke Raphael called on state government to look with passion at their condition and come to their aid.
Nweke said one of the major problems the Gabon community has was lack of access road.
“You know how the road to this place looks like; it has been a very difficult challenge facing the people of this community as you can see that we have large population of people in this community.
“Over 5,000 people are living in this community and this is only access road and it is not motorable, it is worse in the rainy season. You hardly come to this community. You cannot pass this road during the rainy season; you can’t find it easy to come to this community.
“There is no school of any sort, no health centre, no potable water. We depend on spring and pond water for our water needs. The only means of going out is the motorbike. Here is less than two kilometres to the Emene, but you can see that we don’t have light and there is no hope of getting electricity, the government should come to our aid.
“Our children go to school in the neighbouring community of Emene, but with difficulty. Under this bad road they trek three hours to go to school and three hours coming back. Under the hot sun they will also trek and even our women and men also find it difficult to trek and go to market and trek to come back, especially when someone is sick, we always find it difficult to take such person to the hospital because of bad roads.
“We don’t have local birth attendants here. We know how difficult it is for a woman to give birth. Our women normally find it difficult to get medical help because not even private nurses are willing to come to this camp to establish their businesses. The reason is not far-fetched, lack of access road and electricity,” Nweke said.
He also said that even if the community had to contribute money, the Nigerian Air Force would not allow them to build anything because the land belongs to them.