Playing chess with human lives, By Ekene Odigwe

Posted by News Express | 22 July 2018 | 1,612 times

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•Ekene Odigwe

The disaster started in the early ’70s, and has defied all manners of communal effort made in the past to combat it. The erosion threats takes its roots from Catherine Rest House Road (near beach junction), Nsukka, that serves as confluence centre for all flood collections in Nsukka main town. From there, it drives down to Uwenu and Uwani-Onuakachi, passing through Ugbene Agu to Aguneze; and then it splits into various channels to Ihe-Uno, Amebo, Uzoma, Amuamu and Ekoi villages - together they form Alor-Uno community of Nsukka Local Government in Enugu, South-eastern Nigeria - that are experiencing severe climate disaster, because of increased rainfall and flooding the entire town generates. As a result, right now, so many people have become environmental refugees.

The closeness of the villages to the Rest House has multiplied the harsh effects of the menace on the villagers. The families of late Obodo Nweze, Omeje Ogbobe, Patrick Ngwu, Ugwoke Onah, Thomas Nweze are a few among many other families taking refuge somewhere else, because of this menace. It is on record that this environmental threat has sent not less than 148 families parking from their ancestral homes. As at the time of filling this report, flood had submerged what used to be their respective houses.

Hon Clement Ukwueze, chairman of the affected community, explained that they have written to the former and present Enugu State Government administrations and Ministry of Works; yet, nothing has been done.

In the past, various representations were also made to subsequent regimes at the local level, seeking their help in combating this issue. Starting from 2000, when Dr Dan Shere was the local government chairman: during that time he led partnership with the community and brought bulldozers to open up flood channels. This gave the affected villages short relief, only for the erosion to resume closing up its channels with heaps of sand and other debris that have made it impossible for easy flow of water. As a result of the blockages, the erosion started finding its way into their individual homes.

Well, that’s not the only attempt made by this community. In 2014, they sent an SOS mail and also made a representation to the former executive chairman of Nsukka Local Government Area, Charles Ugwu who, after visiting the site, promised to draw the attention of the state government, stressing that the weight had surpassed the capacity of a project one local government would embark on. Unfortunately, that was a political excuse. Caretaker chairmen came and left; letters were written and sent but, just like their predecessors, nothing was done.

In recent time the massive construction of road network going on in Nsukka metropolis heightened the strength of the erosion and its effects on these people. Homes are submerged and humans have become environmental refugees, letters and representations made but no response received.

Hon Nkechi Omeje Ogbu, representing Nsukka West at the Enugu State House of Assembly, said she is aware and was even part of the committee on urban renewal that had visited these sites several times, but she does not have the facts together. The chairman, Committee on Urban Renewal, Hon Offor, as at the time of filling this report, hasn’t picked nor returned any calls or messages.

Sustainable development has an environmental component, and three of the SDGs numbers 13, 14, and 15 deals directly with the kind of environment we want to maintain on Earth. So, we cannot allow people to continually politicise policies, partnerships and constituency projects, especially if these issues bother on human life and shelter. And, in this case, it will help in saving a community from extinction.

According to Dr Pat Asadu, member representing Nsukka Igboeze South in the House of Representatives, he is not aware of such a case nor has it ever been brought to his attention. He redirected that Ogbu will be in the know, as it is within her constituency.

In human interactions with the environment, we often hear some scientists claim that we are living in the Anthropocene, a term that loosely translates to The Age of Humans. Paul Crutzen, one of the three chemists awarded the Nobel Prize for discovering that human activities were impacting the ozone layer around the Earth, introduced the term in early 2000. But unfortunately as the rest of the world are discovering this and tinkering along the line of proffering solutions, developing countries like Nigeria are still claiming ignorance and playing politics with human lives.

The head, Climate Change office of Enugu State, Mr Nnamdi Arum, narrated how this erosion might have started at a further place and since Alor-Uno is in a slopping area, the possibility that the “finger” may be extended to where it is presently and will also continue to expand; claiming more land, people or anything standing on its way. On a broader scale Mr Arum explained that the greenhouse gases are on the increase and in the case of Alor-Uno, all flooding comes together to create such an impact. He suggested that humans can work around in achieving the Paris Agreement, which is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in dealing with greenhouse gases emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance, starting in the year 2020; and that they should start to address this issue as they occur, rather than waiting till they become so big.

Mr Alpheus Odo, Controller, Federal Ministry of Environment, claims no knowledge of such impact, and asked that the community send in a formal report to their office, recounting their losses. Obviously, he couldn’t interpret what qualifies as an environmental menace to be called emergency or how his agency does respond to this type of natural emergency.

Consultant on Environmental Impact Assessment and Biodiversity issues for Federal Ministry of Environment, Abuja, Nigeria and a member of the African Climate Change Adaptation Initiative (ACCAI) with expertise in Biogeography and Biodiversity, Prof Philip Ogbonia Phil-Eze, stated that his office has conducted a geo-technicalsurvey and identified a site for earth dam where they will now harvest flood and when that happens the water harvested will no longer remain there or drive people from their homes, rather it will now serve domestic purposes and irrigation. He opined that the soil needs time to rejuvenate its lost nutrients and that is something that will take time and also something that will ensure that there’s a vegetation cover over the soil for a given number of years,because soil is a dynamic thing. It grows and matures over time within which the nutrients are restored, but that can only happen if the flood is prevented.

In all, it would seem this is a game of Chess: Sacrifice your pawn and save your queen. But, at what price and, for how long, will this sacrifice continue? These people are part of a town that depends on farm produce. And with the worsening flooding costing 1.4 per cent of sub-Saharan GDP each year, according to UN Environment, one is left to wonder if our government at all levels have the political will to bridge this gap.

@Ekeneodigwe, OAP @coalcity929fm, Advocate @afrikaYM, Fellow and @YALINetwork. 

Source: News Express

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