Priscilla Ediare, Ado-Ekiti
The Ureje River, which runs along the Ado-Ijan Road in Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, has earned for itself a scary reputation. The river has brought untold tragedy into the lives of many residents of the area and even strangers unfortunate to encounter its fury recently.
Within four weeks, four persons, including two yet-to-be identified adults and two teenagers who were students of the Ado Grammar School, lost their lives in the river.
There have also been stories of rituals being carried out by the riverbank by some traditionalists seeking spiritual help from their gods for their clients.
The river runs under the Ureje Bridge which recently collapsed due to heavy flooding that ravaged some parts of the state and rendered hundreds homeless. The Ureje River is unique in that it is a reservoir for several other areas where poor drainage systems have made them vulnerable to heavy flooding whenever there is a downpour in Ado-Ekiti.
Such areas include Idolofin, Adebayo, Oke-Ila, and Moferere, among others, which have their drainage systems connected to the Ureje River. This explains why the river is usually heavily flooded whenever there is a downpour in the state capital.
The Ureje River also extends to the back of the Ado Grammar School located on the way to Ureje on the Ado-Ijan Road. That gives some young men the access to the river. Some students from some secondary schools in the area are also believed to assemble by the river bank at noon to swim and allegedly indulge in other unholy acts.
It was gathered that such students engage in occult activities and even rape female students.
The reporter spoke to some residents about the Ureje River. They all expressed concern at the occurrences around the river.
For Mr Rasheed Akanbi, an automobile mechanic, Ureje River has wreaked a lot of havoc on the area. “We’re praying to God to save us from the river,” he said. “The river joins other rivers in other local governments. It is the river linking the Ureje Bridge leading to Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti, Ado-Ijan-Ekiti and Ado-Ikare road, among others. This river has caused so much trouble in this community. In fact, recently, during one of the heavy rains, it swept away somebody whose remains were buried beside the river in accordance with tradition.
“This same river, some weeks ago, drowned two students from a nearby school. The students, we learnt, were either trying to cross the river to the other side or trying to swim. But the bottom line is, this river, to my knowledge, has never been this provoked. This year’s provocation is really terrible, as it has seized the breath of three people. I am only talking on the part of this side of the river that we are, I don’t know about the havoc it must have wreaked on the other side too.
“Whenever the rains are heavy, this river heavily overflows its bank, submerging houses, churches, vehicles and sacking residents from their houses. The residents in this one storey building before us have just returned to the house two weeks ago after they were sacked by the river due to the recent downpour. For close to three months, nobody could tread this side of the river, because it paralyzed business activities for that period of time,” he said.
Mr Femi Odewale, a welder who owns a shop close to the river, narrated how his business has suffered due to the heavy flooding of the river whenever there is a downpour.
His words: “This river has really affected my business. When the river overflowed after the heavy rains, the engine with which I work was affected to the extent that I became an object of sympathy and ridicule. I just resumed after three months of not working because I just repaired the engine. This job before me is the first since I resumed. My neighbours too were affected by the havoc wreaked by the heavy flooding. The river has killed four people, two adults during the rains, whose bodies were buried by the side of the river and two secondary school students.
“As for the two students who recently drowned, it was because government failed to do the needed construction there. If the government had done the necessary construction, those students wouldn’t have died. They didn’t know that portion of the river was so deep and muddy and they got trapped after jumping into it. And they perished there,” he said.
Mrs. Sadiat Olufiade, a petty trader in Ureje explained what she described as the spiritual dimension to the tragedies associated with the river. “The tragedies recently associated with the river have spiritual implications. We learnt that before now, anytime the rainy season was approaching, the Osun devotees usually make some appeasement to the river goddess in that river. This is usually done in order to forestall any tragic incident of drowning and others. When such appeasement was done, there were no calamities. No one died in the flooding of the river, no matter how heavily flooded it was. But since that has been abandoned, those who know have said that the river is angry because it was neglected and so it is exacting its revenge on those it has drowned,” she claimed.
Many residents have urged the state government to urgently construct a stronger bridge to tame the river whenever it overflows.
But Ekiti State Commissioner for Information and Values Orientation, Aare Muyiwa Olumilua, has reacted to the many issues with the river. He said: “The unfortunate incident of the drowning of two students was disheartening. It was heart breaking to say the least. But the truth of the matter is, if the information that got to me was correct, those boys left school in company of their friends, during school hours to go and swim. To an extent, I might blame the school authorities too. How did these boys manage to escape from school during school hours to go and swim?
“At the end of the day, a lot has to do with parenting of these children and that is why Governor Fayemi is really keen on values orientation. But unfortunately a lot of our young ones are losing the values Ekiti people are known for. Education is one of our strongest values and one of our selling points. I am trying to imagine in the days of old how someone who should be in class learning will leave the school, maybe jump over the fence to go and swim during school hours?
“I think our parents need to inculcate these values into our children a lot more. They have to be closer to the children. I can imagine when that kind of child gets home from school, may be the parents don’t ask such important questions.
“But when they know that no one will ask such questions from them at home, they leave school, jump over the fence to go and swim which ultimately resulted in the death of two of them. It was really sad that it happened but it is going to serve as a warning to other young children that when they are supposed to be in school, they should please, be in school,” he said.
The state governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi has equally promised to work with the Federal Government to ensure that the Ureje Bridge, under which the river runs, is properly constructed so as to forestall any other tragedy associated with the bridge and the river.
Currently, construction work has begun on some bad spots on the Ado-Ijan Road.