Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
In Mgbuji autonomous community, Eha-Amufu, Isi-Uzo Local Government Area, Enugu State, old things are passing away. There are new vistas of development through the efforts of patriotic indigenes.
Going by the enormous mineral deposits and agricultural produce domiciled in the area, Mgbuji community could be described as Enugu State’s untapped goldmine.
With vast arable land running into hectares and about 25 farm settlements, the people produce large quantities of palm oil, yam, rice, garri and cassava, enough to feed the entire Enugu State and beyond.
They also have a sprawling timber business, which serves the wood needs for all house construction and building projects, while their vast landmass is endowed with large deposits of lead, iron ore, limestone and refractive laterite that government could also exploit.
But the community has been battling with the problem of lack of access roads from time immemorial. Agricultural produce from the area sells at low prices because there is no easy route to evacuate them to urban areas.
Eha-Amufu, despite being the food basket of Enugu State, has one of the most dilapidated federal roads in the country. Students of the Federal College of Education domiciled in the town often relive their terrible experiences on the road as they go to and from the school.
But respite came recently when the Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi administration completed and inaugurated the first phase of the Ikem-Ehamufu Road.
Desirous of making a difference in Mgbuji autonomous community, some progressive people in the area also decided to complement Ugwuanyi’s efforts in opening up the rural areas.
The reporter, on a visit to the area, recently, gathered that the people of Mgbuji have been striving over the years to address the challenge of bad roads in the area.
Their dream came true recently when they received the N5 million seed money from the Enugu State government’s Choose-Your-Project Initiative and decided to channel the money to the road project.
The Enugu State seed money became a boost that gingered good-spirited individuals from the area to contribute further funds into the project. And today, what used to be like a footpath and bush track has been developed into a major road, with earthwork and laterite at an advanced stage awaiting asphalting. The road, measuring about 50 kilometres, links Enugu State with Benue State.
Chijikoke Edeoga, Commissioner for Environment, Enugu State, said the project was very dear to the hearts of the people of the area and they were not looking back despite the fact that several millions of naira have been pumped into the project.
“This is all about community development efforts and we are doing road construction, bridges and culverts. It’s a long-standing project of many years to which past eras had contributed but the present era decided to take it far beyond.
“From the seed money of N5 million community Choose-Your-Project Initiative of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, the president-general of the community, in his wisdom and in consultation with other progressive-minded stakeholders from the community, decided to plough the money into the road project and thus began a development trajectory that has consumed several millions of naira and still counting, while the people are happier for that.
“The road links the three local governments of Okpowu, Obadigbo and Ador all in Benue State. This is what can be described as the exhibition of communal efforts in action, prudent use of resources and transparent leadership,” he said.
Excitement rent the air when the project implementation committee toured the project site and locations with the chairman of Isi-Uzo Local Government Area, Hon. Jacob Abonyi, recently. The project inspection team visited many sections of the road project and the new roads being opened.
Another indigene of Mgbuji community, Goddy Ogenyi, former Commissioner for Human Capital Development and Poverty Alleviation, Enugu State, said the road project held a lot of prospects for residents and travellers.
He said: “When this road is linked up with Benue State, people travelling to the northern part of Nigeria don’t need to go to Obollo Afor anymore because, from this route, you are already there and it is quite shorter, saving one lots of stress.
“In this project, we are celebrating our young people who have shown commitment, resourcefulness and transparency. The challenge in several communities of the world today is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find young people who can be counted on in demonstrating integrity and responsibility in execution of assignments.
“In Mgbuji community, we are blessed to have such people. We tested and trusted them and they have withstood the test of time by their delivery. We believe they will do more because what we have seen today is not the end of the road but a portion in a long stretch. When we are tired, those coming behind us will continue.
“Imagine having cassava on the soil for three years because there is no road to evacuate the harvest? We believe the minimum we can do to support what the governor is doing to make Enugu State very much developed is to help open up those link roads so that agricultural produce from here can be evacuated to the urban areas where they can have price value.”
Chukwuma Edeh, a legal practitioner and president-general of Mgbuji community, said the people thought it wise to make a move and complement government’s efforts, instead of waiting for government to do it all.
“The massive road project, when completed, will lessen the problem and burden of our people. The secret of our moving forward in the project is the spirit of boldness and unity of purpose existing among us. With an incredible farm settlement that has engaged many people of the community in farming, the people have been yearning for access roads where they can evacuate their farm produce and also sell at the right prices. And we are happy it is becoming a reality now,” he said.
Another stakeholder from the community, Chief Eric Ebe, a chieftain of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and former chairman, Isi-Uzo LGA, said the people’s dream for the road project started before the civil war.
“Our forefathers knew the essence of the farm settlements and they initiated how to connect roads, including the track roads they navigated on foot and bicycles. I thank the sons and daughters of Mgbuji Autonomous Community because, successively, every set has tried to make an input on our journey to progress.
“It is rare for even a local government area to embark on a project of such magnitude even in this period of economic doldrums. But we have decided to task ourselves and gain something at the end,” he said.
Austin Akunne, chairman, Enugu East Development Council, and chairman of the works implementation committee for the project, said there were about eight villages in the community that were inaccessible before now, especially during the rainy season. He expressed excitement that the ongoing project had changed the situation for the better.
Chairman of Isi-Uzo LGA, Jacob Abonyi, described the project as “an uncommon community effort.”
He said such patriotism displayed by those powering the project in the community was very rare and should be commended and supported. He promised to prioritise the community’s needs as part of his administration’s goals, since community development was top on the agenda of Gov. Ugwuanyi’s administration in Enugu State.
“Not every community can do this and I must commend them. Government will assist you and we only solicit your prayers. Pray for us and Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi so that he can replicate all his lofty ideas and programmes for the people of Enugu State. The governor has already directed us to open up the rural communities and, since the people have taken the lead here, government will assist them,” he said.