From Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
the people of Amauzari in Isiala Mbano and Amaigbo in Nwagele Local Government Areas of Imo State are presently worried over the abandonment of the Amauzari Dam by the Federal Government.
Amauzari stream is as old as the community itself. It has served as the only drinking and useful water source for the community and its neighbours.
A bridge was constructed across the stream to allow the neighbouring communities interact and interface with one another. The depth of the river is said to be over 20 feet while the water runs across almost the length and breadth of Amauzari.
Daily Sun was told that the Amauzari and Amaigbo communities were delighted when government proposed the construction of the earth dam at the boundary of the two towns, for purposes of water supply, fisheries, hydroelectricity development, sanitation, job creation, irrigation among others. It was also gathered that most of the people who owned lands close to the Amuazari stream, out of excitement, willingly donated their lands for the project.
Christian Mbakwe (Igwe Mbama) narrated: “It was the Federal Ministry of Water Resources that awarded the contract on behalf of the Federal Government to the company that was supposed to execute the contract.
“When our people heard that they were coming, Amauzari town trooped out en-mass to the dam site and showed them the Onu-Iyi-Okwa River in Okwosu village of Amauzari. It is contiguous to the Onu-ezuhie River in Amaigbo town, in Nwangele Local Government Area. They were also shown the Aguta Umuagwurihe River, which is on the same channel with the Onu-Iyi-Okwa River.
“They came to Amauzari in a motorcade, around 2006, when the contract was in the offing and met with the people of Amauzari. They made lofty promises of completing the Amauzari Earth Dam project within two years, if peradventure they obtained an approval for the contract award from the Presidency.
“The expectation of Uzarians is that the dam project will be a catalyst to the dredging of the channel linking Onu-Iyi- Okwa and Aguta rivers, which are about two kilometres apart, in an area that is rich in hydro carbons.
“The people agreed to support the project by releasing their lands on the condition that adequate compensation would be paid to the land owners, as contained in the contract for the construction of the dam.
“But to their greatest surprise, the construction work of the dam proceeded at a snail speed initially. Subsequently, the ministry brought in some earth movers and its own personnel to facilitate the completion of the project.
“At the commencement of the dam project, they built what looked like a bunker and barrier at the middle of Onu-Iyi-Okwa River. This occasioned momentous flooding of the villages of Amauzari namely; Okwosu, Umugwurihe, Umueze, Okwelle, Umuechem, Umumpele, Umunumo, Anuzo and Umuchukwu.
“Something unusual occurred when immense deluge of flood water swooped on Amauzari and Amaigbo, due to the dastardly and slipshod construction works undertaken by the contractors.
“The flooding of the two towns was sequel to the fact that the two rivers of Onu-Iyi-Okwa and Onu-ezuhie overflowed and burst their banks, and flood water of implausible enormity was released on Amauzari and Amaigbo towns.
“The natives thought that it was Armageddon or the destruction of the earth, when they noticed the first torrential flooding of the towns. This was exactly at the point they temporarily abandoned the construction work at the dam site and fled.
When the flood receded, the contractors returned to site and excavated red earth from one end of the Onu-Iyi-Okwa River and used it to sand fill part of the river. They created a mini-island or what looked like staircase from the end of the bridge, and a two meter channel that compacted the flow of the water from the Onu-Iyi-Okwa River.
“This generated a great pollution, thereby creating environmental problems that affected the rivers, air and land at Amaigbo, Amauzari, Afor Amauzari, Otokoroishafor and environs. The bridge on the river was also affected. As if that was not enough, the contractors abandoned the site for a second time.”
The distraught community leader alleged that the bridge reconstructed by the contractors was not in consonance with the architectural drawings and designs in the entire contract: “The bridge linking Amauzari and Amaigbo is a catastrophe waiting to occur. The people need no fortune tellers, to aver with exactitude that the ‘bicycle bridge’ will collapse within the next two years.
“The bridge has cracked on its four corners and it is in imminent danger of degeneration. The railings of the said bridge were constructed with three inches iron pipes on both sides and some are corroding at an alarming rate.
“Community leaders from Amauzari complained and paid many visits to the headquarters of the ministry to plead with them to properly oversee the construction work at the dam and complete the project on time.
“They demanded for the architectural and structural drawings of the dam. But all their efforts at knowing the full details of the contract was obstructed. That was when it dawned on them that they were being deceived, and that it was another white elephant project.
“Amauzari and Amaigbo were confounded and astounded when the Federal Government announced to Nigerians and the whole world, that Amauzari Earth Dam had been completed, during the President’s June 12, 2020, Democracy Day broadcast.
“The President’s televised broadcast stated: ‘The completion of Amauzari, Amla Otukpo and other 42 earth dams with combined job creation of about 43,354 direct jobs and 71,172 indirect jobs, would provide more support for irrigation, agriculture and water supply. The people believed that the President was misled to declare the Amauzari Dam project completed in his broadcast.”
However, the people are not folding their arms to watch their land temporarily merged with the dam waste without being used for what it was proposed for. They have dragged all the contractors involved in the project and Buhari to court for breach of contract.
The communities are claiming N2billion as compensation on the failed project. In suit number FHC/OW/CS/121/2020, at the Federal High Court, Owerri, the plaintiffs, Chief Ahunanya Ekwem and others are claiming to be paid as special and general damages, jointly and severally against the defendants in respect of the abandonment, frustration and breach of contract to construct the Amauzari dam.
They also seeking that the sixth and seventh defendants, who are contractors, issue a public apology to the President and the people of Nigeria to be published in five national newspapers over the embarrassment caused the President, plaintiffs and people of Amauzari.