Lucky Ighomuaye, Benin
The Ikpoba River which runs through many communities, including Benin City, the Edo State capital, is significant in many ways to the people of the state.
The river is said to connect River Ethiope in Delta State where it empties itself into the Atlantic Ocean.
The erstwhile administration of Chief Lucky Igbinedion in Edo State came up with the idea of dredging the river to make it a tourist attraction but the project was abandoned after millions of naira was spent by the state government.
Notwithstanding, the presence of the river has a moderating effect on temperature and weather generally in the communities it navigates through, thereby making the environment very cool for the people who live in those communities.
Besides, the river has provided employment to some business-minded inhabitants of the area, particularly in Benin City, where many Car Wash operators have decided to site their business on the river bank and rely on its free water to run their business.
Additionally, the river also serves as a means of getting income for the fishermen in the area.
The fishermen, after their catch, usually display them for commuters to buy at very cheap rate.
Before now, Abattoir operators in Benin City, found it convenient to operate close to the Ikpoba River bank, where they had free water and also easily channelled their waste into the river. But the State Government stopped the practice after realising that it was polluting the river which many communities rely on for their source of water supply.
Significantly, the river has served as a place for both the Christian religious leaders and the Traditional Religious leaders to perform some cleansing for their members.
The Christians Religious leaders take their church members there for baptism while the Traditional Religions also take their members there to perform some sacrifices.
Besides the numerous benefits of the river, the people living very close to it, have expressed mix feelings.
Mr. Efosa Itota, a manager of a Car Wash at the bank of the river, told Daily Sun that whenever the river overflows its bank they will be out of business.
“I am the manager of Dr. Wash Maker Wash. I have been the Manager of this Car Wash for two years now.
“The problem we normally face here is that of overflowing and whenever rain falls, the river will overflow its bank and chase us out of this place and we can’t continue with our work again.
“So, the river needs dredging. When you look at the bridge, some time ago, it was very far from the river but now, it is almost swallowed up by the river just because of the sand that has filled the river.
“So, if the river is dredged, it will be good.
“Come to think of it, between now and two years time, this major road you see now will be affected by the river if it is not dredged”.
When asked how much he makes in a day, Itota said said
“When there is influx of customers, in a day, I can make up to N3,000”.
He said the river is not beneficial to him alone but to other people who also come to make sacrifices at the river.
“Besides that I have my Car Wash here, people also come here to make sacrifices in the river. I mean those who practice the Traditional Religion while some pastors also bring their church members here for baptism.
“When they come, they will look for the shallow place to carry out the baptism”, he said.
He called on the government to come to their rescue by dredging the river because when the river overflow its bank, watert will enter peoples houses and destroy their property.
He said if the government can do that before the rains set in, that they will be very grateful.
“The government should come and help us before the rainy season starts fully because whenever the river overflows its bank, we the people working here and other persons in the community are usually sacked from their homes.
“Besides, the government should come and help us because we are always paying our taxes to the government.
“The Edo State Board of Internal Revenue and the Edo State Environmental Taskforce are usually here to collect taxes from us.
“So, the government should please come and help us”, he pleaded.
Another Car Wash Operator, Mr. Kingsley Jolly, decried the devastating impact of the river when it overflows its bank.
He said he has lost some of his valuables to the flood.
“The government should come and help us to dredge the river because when it rains, our rooms will be flooded with water.
“As for me, I have so many electronics at home and their receipts which I kept in my wardrobe have all been destroyed by flood.
“So, as at today, I don’t have receipts”, he lamented.
He said he makes a lot of money from the Car Wash, noting that considering the huge amount that he makes from it, Bank Managers can’t measure with him.
“As for what I make here in a day, a Bank Manager can’t get it. At times, I make up to N15,000 in a day”, he said.
He said the amount of money charged per a car differs for each car, stressing that there are some of the cars they wash for N2,000 and N5,00 respectively.
Kingsley advised other boys to key into the business of Car Washing instead of taking into crime and criminality.
For Mr. Destiny Prince, who said he was born and brought up in that community, whenever it rains and the river overflows its bank, the people in that community suffer untold hardship.
He called on the government to come to their assistance by dredging the river.
“We are begging the government to come and help us to dredge the river so that we can be at peace and carry out our businesses peacefully and also sleep peacefully whenever it rains”, he said.
One of the respondents and a Car Wash operator who spoke on condition of anonymity, decried channeling the of blood into the river.
He said because the river is close to an Abattoir, those working there usually channel the waste product from their slaughtered cows into it and called for a stop of the practice.
“What we want the government to do is to stop those who operate Abattoir and are found of channeling their waste into the river to stop doing so.
“That is the first thing I want the government to come and do here because in this water, you can see blood running through now, people in other areas drink from it.
“Before, I used to use the water from the river to wash my customers’ cars but I can’t now because they are always complaining that their cars are smelling and this to a larger extent has affected my business negatively.
“I have eventually lost all my customers”, he complained.
However, one of the operators of the Abattoirs denied the allegation of channeling their waste into the river. He said since boreholes are now a common sight in the state, they have since stopped such act.
“No, we don’t channel the waste from the cows we slaughter into the river. You can see that we have boreholes here and whenever we need water, we generate our water by ourselves”, he said.