Posted by News Express | 21 February 2020 | 2,741 times
The people of Awka North are happy with Governor Willie Obiano. They said he is doing well, particularly the members of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). They said he has done well. They said he has refurbished 250 hospitals in Anambra State, yet the only and gigantic general hospital in Awka North at Amanuke remained in ruins. Nothing serious is happening there partially because of lack of infrastructure and no one is concerned.
If you say a word against Obiano’s government in the form of genuine criticism in Awka North, you become a wailer, because you weren’t benefitting. Is that how to run a democracy? Any democracy without constructive criticism is dead on arrival.
Others in All Progressives Congress and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the two major opposition political parties are either cowards or afraid of telling truth to power. Their selfish interests are paramount
First rain of the year was witnessed in Onitsha, Anambra State second week in February 2020. It lasted two hours, and it was a mixed feeling. The rain washed off refuse dumped in drainage channels and defaced the commercial city.
What is the fate of the people of Awka North now that rainy season is back, judging by so many abandoned infrastructures in Awka North? There is no completed tarred road in Awka North. The local government is not connected to other communities via its roads because the roads are inaccessible. Some awarded road contracts have lasted over six years without completion like Amansea-Ebenebe-Ugbenu-Awba Offemmili road with a spur to Ugbene and Okpuno-Isu Aniocha-Urum-Amanuke road with a spur to Ugbene.
In the rainy season, the roads are impassable and in the dry season, the roads are hellish with dust like balloon hovering over any vehicular movement. Schools are abandoned by June/July as teachers based in Awka and environs abscond from their duty posts. Children from that area suffer much during the rainy season. Government-induced poverty is also a challenge. By neglecting infrastructure in Awka North, the government is culpable.
Traversing the communities in Awka North Local Government Area during this dry season was hellish, but it will be like dining with the devil himself during the rainy season, especially the road that linked Ugbenu and Ugbene with Amanuke community. The road is a death trap. Other roads are not exempted. If attended to, all the roads in the ten communities in Awka North linked the local government council headquarters at Achalla and to Onitsha, either through Awkuzu or Igbariam. Awka North roads connect to Enugu State too. But because the roads were abandoned, Awka North people go through five local government areas to get to Achalla, its local government headquarters.
The easiest and closest route to Unizik junction, Awka, for most people in Ugbene, Ugbenu and Awba Ofemmili is through the Ugbene-Amanuke-Isu Aniocha-Okpuno road or Ugbene-Amanuke-Achalla-Urum-Isu Aniocha road or even Ebenebe-Mgbakwu-Isu Aniocha-Okpuno road, not even through Ebenebe-Amansea, but over six months ago the belly bridge reconstructed by the 14 Field Engineer Regiment, Nigerian Army Onitsha connecting Amanuke from Ugbene collapsed, and since then, nothing has been done.
No attention whatsoever apart from a visit by the local government chairman, Mr Ferdinand Onwuje, even though he did not go with the media. Commissioner for Works, Mr Marcel Ifejiofor said some staff of his ministry went on an assessment of the collapsed Bridge. Are there no government appointees from Awka North to facilitate Obiano’s visit there as well as government urgent attention?
The former presidents-general met and re-echoed on the need for Obiano to intervene on Awka North roads as council area appears abandoned by all indications. They lamented the neglect of Awka North by the Obiano administration.
They noted that there is no other local government abandoned like Awka North in the state hence Governor Willie Obiano should declare a state of emergency on Awka North roads as the people have suffered untold hardship and decadence.
They lamented that communities in Awka North could not access their council headquarters without running around four to five local government areas of Awka South, Njikoka, Dunukofia, Oyi, and Anambra East before connecting to the council area of Achalla.
They pointed out that the communities are interlinked with roads to the local government headquarters but unattended to like Amanuke through Ugbene and Ebenebe through Mgbakwu.
They informed that a team of investors visited Awka North for investment but were stunned they could not access any part of the local government with ease and that was how we lost the consortium of investors from China. The Governor during his election promised to attend to Awka North as part of Igbo Adagbe, but never did.
They insisted that if Awka North had good roads, every other thing would have been sorted out, lamenting that in 2014, Awka North communities threw in everything to elect Chief Willie Obiano as Governor only to be abandoned soon after even when Amansea-Ebenebe-Ugbene-Ugbenu-Awba Ofemmili road was the first he visited after becoming governor. They said Obiano promised to link the road from Awba Ofemmili to Ayamelum but has not even completed the road for six years he assumed duties.
They asked Obiano to stop the negligence of the people of Awka North and complete the roads awarded since 2004 by former governor Peter Obi’s administration. They asked for a state of emergency on Awka North roads by Obiano’s administration as no road in Awka North is passable, even with a jeep, particularly Amansea-Ebeneb-Ugbene-Ugbenu and Awba Ofemmili.
Adding his voice, Chief Shedrack Anakwue Oronukwu, former local government chairman and former Amanuke PG, informed that the Amansea to Awba Ofemmili road was awarded by Peter Obi and handed over to Obiano, but nothing has been done since then. He said the government should include Awka North in its business as it has denied Awka North appointments, no commissioner, no permanent secretary and no chairman of board. He said Amanuke General Hospital has been abandoned even when it is one of the oldest hospitals built to standard in the early ’80s.
Corroborating his stand, Dr Anaerobi Okoye said it was unfortunate Achalla, the capital of Awka North is accessed by going around through five local government areas whereas there are roads within Awka North to access the council headquarters. He wondered why Awka North should have no roads but other local government areas have roads leading to nowhere but farmland tarred, insisting it was pathetic. He noted that Awka North has people willing and capable to contribute its quota but has not been given a chance to be part of governance.
For Mr Romanus Nnebenanya, former transition committee member Awka North from Ugbenu: “The problem of transportation from Ugbenu to Awka is hellish. There is no road since I was born 60 years ago, road has been our major problems in Awka North particularly Awba Ofemmili-Ugbene-Ugbenu through Amanuke. He reaffirmed that going to Awka is tedious and suffering.
“Government abandoned us until Peter Obi came into office and awarded our roads, flagged them off, kick-started construction to some extent from Amansea through Ebenebe, and through Okpuno-Isu Aniocha-Urum-Amanuke axis as well as sand-filled some parts with drainages up to Ugbenu until Ebenebe Bridge collapsed.
“Obi did drainages in his first term and would have completed the road if not for the collapse of the Ebenebe Bridge. Our people suffered for years, peddling canoe to cross either way to Amansea or to Ebenebe.
“You wear short or fold your trousers up, enter a boat to cross over and continue the journey. For months to years and the suffering continued until Obi’s administration got a company in Egypt that constructed a steel bridge, but after hanging the bridge his second term was over. Obi did the Ugbenu Bridge with steel too at Egypt. The two bridges were done by Obi before handing over to Obiano.”
He reaffirmed that since Peter Obi left, nothing has happened at the Amansea-Ebenebe-Ugbene-Ugbenu-Awba Ofemmili-Amanuke road and other roads awarded by Obi in Awka North, but a little at Amanuke and Isu-Aniocha. He lamented that Obiano is seen as part of Awka North but has abandoned his people in Awka North. He recalled that his first official duty was to Ugbenu Bridge where he promised to link the road to Umuolum in Anambra East and then Ayamelum. Obiano promised to do the bridges to link the communities in Awka North and those of Anambra East but till date not even a tipper of sand was done on the roads.
He reported that rains washed away the sand filled on the roads and soon if nothing is done, the road would be cut off. He informed that going to Awka is a day’s journey as vehicles no longer ply the road as from Ebenebe Bridge to Amansea is waterlogged, whereas the other side of Ebenebe are potholes. He confirmed that it now costs between N1,500 to N3,000 to travel via that root to Awka.
This is a far cry to the different challenges bedevilling Awka North, according to High Chief Onwelukwue Aaron Nwannebuike Chukwukadibia, JP, a lawyer and Owelle of Ugbene who blamed former political office-holders and appointees on the predicament of Awka North.
On whether Awka North was abandoned, Mr Onwelukwue said: “Yes and no! Yes in the sense that we have not had vocal voices as our representatives in the state House of Assembly and the National Assembly. He lamented that the mandate was given to the people who represented Awka North, if adequately utilised, Awka North would not be abandoned as it is today. He insisted that those who represented Awka North failed in their representation by not constantly drawing the government’s attention to the deprivation in the council area.
Onwelukwue noted that proper representation in Awka North started with Mr John Ifechikwulu Nwokoye, aka, More Money as he has been vocal in the House, appealing to the government for the interest of Awka North people; even intervening where necessary.
He said Nwokoye has two constituency offices now for better representation and has moved a motion for intervention for Awka North roads. “He has been vocal and his scorecard is unequalled. Awka North is marginalised by our people.”
He insisted that the sons and daughters of Awka North who were elected to represent the constituency, but rather took the mandate and ran away were responsible for the dilapidation and abandonment experienced in the communities in the local government.
Owelle Ugbene, as he is fondly called suggested a way out of the mess as he said our representatives should tell the government what the people of Awka North needed for interventions and not running away with the collective mandate of the people.
He is, however, of the opinion that it was not all bad as the Obiano-led government has demonstrated uncommon love for Awka North with a network of road ongoing in Amanuke, Mgbakwu, even inside the Anambra State Polytechnic where the students protested some time ago. He said but for the topography of Amansea-Ugbenu-Ugbenu-Awba Ofemmili road, the state government did a great job there. He said hopefully after the rains, the contractors mobilised by the state government would go back to the site. This was shocking as he was speaking in the peak of the dry season.
He recalled that wife of the governor, Chief Mrs Eberechukwu Obiano, re-echoed it when she visited Awka North secretariat at Achalla during the August meeting: that it was the duty of those representing Awka North to continuously remind the governor of the challenges of Awka North people, as the governor, won’t be in Awka and Achalla at the same time.
He concluded that if Awka North people in government do the needful in true representation, that things would have changed and improved. He apportioned the blame to community leaders including presidents-general, traditional rulers to mention but a few.
Onwelukwue who was the campaign director-general of Nwokoye campaign organisation said: “The governor cannot be a seer! Who and who notified the government about the situation of Awka North neglect? We are punishing ourselves, wiping up sentiments, but thank God we have gotten a vocal voice now in the person of Nwokoye.
“We shall send representatives to our Distinguished Senator Uche Ekwunife and member of House of Representatives, Engr Chinedu Onwuasoanya for their intervention for Awka North. He even appealed to the people of Awka North to submit information on the challenges of Awka North people for interventions to their representatives in the State House, House of Representatives and Senate as well as the state government,” Nwokoye said.
He decried that communities in Awka North are not linked up and as well were cut off communication-wise as Ezu Belly Bridge abutments have collapsed at the Amanuke/Achalla axis. From that axis to Awka is between N1,500 and N2,000; but through Amansea to Awka is between N2,000 and N3,000.” That road is waterlogged, though passable because it is sandy soil.
He said that soon it would be harvest time and there would be no access road to take away the farm produce.
He disclosed that Awka North has been denied their quota in the civil service as Awka North now has no permanent secretary, no directors, no chairman of boards, no commissioner, no magistrate, no judge in the state judiciary; nothing to mention but a few. He appealed to Governor Willie Obiano to give Awka North its fair share of recognition in line with the public policy of fairness to all the local government areas.
Mr. Fabian Okoro, a farmer from Ugbene, said his community is suffering and in need of serious help. All things produced in the community resides there and do not move to anywhere because there is no road.
“I cannot use my head and carry my rice to Eke Awka to sell. People know and patronise our rice and fishes very well in the past, but now, there is no way to convey them to people again. We produce and eat them by ourselves. Few people that managed to come to buy on several occasions don't see means of going home. Sometimes, their commodities spend weeks before they see a driver that will agree to convey the goods. During the rainy season, we don't go out and we don't come in. If we call an okada rider that will convey us to Amansea, they charge us N1,000, even without any commodity.” Another farmer who gave his name as Anthony collaborated Okoro’s views.
Mrs. Victoria Anyake also a farmer said she cultivates cocoyam and rice mainly but have no means of selling it. “What I do is that when I harvest my farm produce, I call marketers who I have their numbers to find means to come. It is not all vehicles that come to Ugbene, we call big lorries to convey our products but they charge us too much. I depend on my farming work to train my children two of whom are in the tertiary institutions. There was a certain time I had wanted to go to the market and it started raining. There was no means to go. Before the next couple of days, my son came back and demanded his school fees, but I had planned to pay the fees if I sell the farm produce.”
A shop-owner, Mrs Ijeoma Egbuke, said: “Our suffering is too much because the roads are not good. We spend too much because the roads are not good. We spend too much to get to other communities because the roads are not good. Okada people charge us a huge amount of money to take us to any part of the neighbouring town. During rainy seasons, the road is in a total mess. We do not go anywhere once there is a downpour. If anyone dares, the person may be forced to sleep on the road. Even during dry season, the road is still rough because it generates too much dust and this has been causing health challenges to most people of the community.”
Stephen, a cloth-seller in the market square beside the community primary school said that his business has in recent times deteriorated as a result of the condition of the community. He said that he deals in jerseys and other wears meant for youths; but since the roads have been in a terrible state, young boys from neighbourhood communities do not have access to his shop again resulting in low patronage.
“As we are farmers, we need loans to produce more. Government has been giving loans to farmers in other communities, but such provision has not been extended to us.”
Another trader and member of the community vigilante group, Chief Samuel said that he cultivates cassava and produces gari as well. He said that he constantly conveys his goods to Oye Amansea to sell. He said that the community has only one vehicle that agrees to convey traders to and fro the market, especially on Oye market days. But any day the vehicle fails to turn up, the goods will have to wait for another four market days while the perishable ones will waste, leaving the traders short of money for their daily needs.
Investigation showed that one end of the collapsed Ezu River Belly Bridge which
now rests on the support of tree branches carved out by the members of the community with few planks levelled at the end to allow people who are brave enough to trudge past. Chief Nwunne David, Ikukuoma 1 of Ugbene, said that Ugbene people do not have access to Amanuke community anymore because of the failed bridge. He called on Obiano’s government to intervene quickly to help the community before the arrival of rainy season.
“Ugbene community is suffering. During the raining season, one of the heads of the bridge collapsed and up till now, nothing has been done. Though some government officials have come to view what has happened, there is no response yet. We are expecting the government to come to our rescue because Ugbene is one of the few food basket communities in Anambra State. We are mainly farmers who specialise in the production of various agricultural products, including rice, yam, cassava and fish, among others. We want the government to give us access road so that we can take our produce to the town where we can make money out of it.”
EDITORS NOTE: Please watch out for the concluding part of this article tomorrow.
•Odogwu, PhD, a blogger, can be reached @ www.odogwublog.com; 08060750240 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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