Posted by News Express | 24 February 2020 | 3,330 times
By CHIMA NWAFO
Those familiar with the state of the road linking Okigwe and Isuikwuato in Abia State were not surprised with the abduction of travellers by gunmen suspected to be Fulani herdsmen in the evening of Tuesday, February 11.
But up to press time, there was no reaction from either the relevant government agencies or the Federal Ministry of Works and Abia State government whose collective irresponsibility created the craters on the federal road, deepening the erosion menace.
The report accurately confirmed the fact the abductors monitored the fateful vehicle until it got to the gully erosion spot, before they struck.
“They were said to have left the vicinity and moved towards the gully after the Abia State University, on the road towards Isuikwuato town. The source said the strangers later waylaid travellers around the gully erosion site on the road,” reported News Express.
The deterioration of that road has been a gradual and progressive degenerative process through years of neglect by both federal and state authorities.
In May last year, the Publisher of News Express, Mr Isaac Umunna, who hails from Eluama, in Isuikwuato, lamented the neglected state of that road which he said had become so ramshackle and a death-trap for motorists to navigate – both in the rainy and dry seasons.
According to locals, that gully spot on the federal road dates back to the earliest days of the unfortunate administration of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abia State. Besides, it is a good example of how self-serving Igbo politicians are – both at state and federal levels.
Abia North parades top political personalities whom that erosion site and several others are in their constituency.
Current Minister of State for Mines and Steel, Dr Okechukwu Oga, comes from Uturu, the Abia State University town that shares proximity with the gully site, just as it is a stone’s throw from Deputy Leader of the House of Representatives, Ms Nkeiru Onyejeocha’s home. Besides, Isuikwuato Local Government Area parades many retired Generals and political personalities in both current and previous administrations at both federal and state levels. But unlike their Anambra State counterparts, the communities’ problem is never the concern of Abia politicians. That is the same drama playing out at the state level.
Governors and political leaders in Abia run a peculiar form of democracy: Government of the political leaders, for the leaders by the leaders and their families. Instances abound, but for starters, check out the recently published report on former Abia governor and now serving Senator Theodore Ahamefule Orji (PDP, Abia Central). The magnitude of looting was dizzying. A clip from the findings of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the extent of involvement of the ex-governor’s son, Chinedu Enyinnaya Orji, current Speaker of Abia House of Assembly noted. “A check on his financial activities revealed that he had about 100 accounts in different banks, with over 80 per cent of them still very active. The accounts, which were both corporate and individual, received so much deposit in cash without evidence of job or services rendered.” That is the story for another day.
Recently, yours truly did a piece on Ikwuano people protesting over gully erosion sites on federal roads and neglected state roads and educational infrastructures. Unfortunately, the man at the helm of state affairs, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, is never perturbed by such complaints. Just as the community spokesman said the problem is not recent. This confirmed by a seminal paper – Gully Erosion Susceptibility Mapping In Ikwuano Local Government Area Of Abia State Using GIS Techniques – by Hycienth Ogunka Nwankwoala, Department of Geology, University of Port Harcourt.
“A gully is usually defined as a deep channel eroded by concentrated flow of water, removing upland soil and parent material that is too big to be obliterated by normal tillage operations,” the Ikwuano-born university don explained.
According to his findings, “Gully erosion is one of the environmental problems facing the people of Ikwuano Local Government Area of Abia State, affirming that it has become an issue of environmental concern. “Several roads have been cut off and villages isolated. For example, in 2010, the emergence of Elemaga and Amuro gullies led to the isolation of 5 villages, including Elemaga, Itunta, Obuoro, Nkalunta and Amuro. Also, in 2017, Amaegbu gully grew rapidly into disaster level leading to the cutting off of Ariam-Usaka ring road. Some vehicles are stuck on the road after heavy rainfall. As a result, harvested farm produce cannot be easily transported to market places due to the poor conditions of the road networks resulting from gully erosion. Loss of farmlands to erosion has striped the people their primary source of livelihood. Human lives, houses, roads, electric poles, springs and streams (the people’s source of drinking water) and even vegetated areas are under threat.”
Nwankwoala’s study provided further evidence to show that little or no attention has been given to this issue of environmental concern by the government at both federal and state levels.
“Residents, under community efforts, have in several occasions, devised means of controlling gully erosion in the area. These included conversion of erosion sites into refuse dump sites, sand-filling the sites, mining of sands along erosion channels to help contain surface run-off, periodic pouring of gravel and palm kernels on the roads, etc. These efforts have not only proved abortive but enhanced the accelerated rate of gullying in the area. Numerous new gullies are emerging and many of old ones are growing rapidly to disaster level.”
From the foregoing study, the erosion problem in Ikwuano, as in most parts of Abia and the South-East in general, has been there for decades, yearning for government attention. The incumbent Abia administration inherited gully cases from the highly corrupt and incompetent regime of his predecessor and godfather, Senator Ahamefule Orji. But the tragedy, which did not come as a surprise to pundits, is that Ikpeazu is following the footsteps of his master: irregular payment of salaries and pensions, poor quality roads (where one exists), infrastructure deficit, weak performance, and employing propaganda to justify government ineptitude.
The News Express report of the abduction of travellers at the gully erosion spot of the neglected Okigwe Road, should be of interest to the Abia State Government, the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP)/World Bank and Federal Ministry of Environment who have been performing wonders in the media, on gully erosion control and remediation in the state. In an earlier write-up, yours truly had pointed out how reports of NEWMAP operations are routinely covered through an advertorial in one media house: Daily Trust.
For example, on December 31, 2019 the Kaduna-based paper reported: “FG Commissions flood, Erosion Control Project in Abia: The Federal Government Tuesday commissioned flood, erosion control project as well as road improvement work carried out by the Ecological Fund Office, with a promise to tackling ecological problems across the nation in order to improve the well-being of Nigerians. The Minister of State for Mine and Steel Dr Uchechukwu Ogah who represented President Buhari said the project was one of the 19 project’s approved by the President in the first quarter of 2018. He said the intervention was initiated by the Federal Government to checkmate flood and erosion in the communities.” Shockingly, no COMMUNITY, Town or Village was mentioned in the report.
According to the report, the Uturu, Abia State-born deputy minister continued: “These ecological funds projects are very important; these are the only projects that the President personally approves and was awarded by the Ecological Funds Office Tender Board July 2018, which means that the ecological problems in Abia were specifically brought to the attention of the President, and he decided to solve them by giving approval.”
This presidential gesture shown to an anonymous or non-existing communities in Abia is disturbing, very disturbing because, even if only one Northern paper is qualified to advertise/report the project, both Ogah and Akwa Ibom-born Linus Effiong, Daily Trust correspondent are close enough to Abia that no community should sound so tongue-twisting that they could neither pronounce it nor find one educated local to assist them. That is not all. Another strange factor is that the photograph used in illustrating the story reads: “One of the erosion sites visited by the Minister of State for Environment, Mrs. Sharon Ikeazor in Anambra State.”
Again, one is compelled to ask, if the projects commissioned by Ogah and reported by Daily Trust had no photographs, just as the communities had no name, could the newspaper not find one picture from the over 300 erosion sites in Abia State to illustrate the report signed by their Umuahia correspondent?
Much as one cannot deny the efforts of the Buhari regime in infrastructural development despite failure in the area of security and equity, the performance of some government agencies and public officers do not promote transparency, a core pillar of the administration.
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