David-Chyddy Eleke who took a tour of communities in Anambra North Local Government Area, with special emphasis on Amanuke community, reports that theirs is a tale of total neglect and near absence of government
Awka North is one Anambra council areas that is made up of mostly agrarian communities, and is just few kilometres drive from Awka metropolis, which is the state capital of Anambra State. Despite this nearness to the capital, despite being renowned as the food basket of the state, communities that make up the local government have been condemned to lack and suffering as a result of decay in infrastructure and other amenities that can make life easy for the people.
Approaching Awka North LGA from Awka metropolis through Oby Okoli Road, off the Enugu/Onitsha Expressway into Mgbakwu, one is first greeted by the absence of good road, better still, a dusty or muddy road, depending on the day’s weather on the day of visit or the season of the year one visits. Through Urum, Awba Ofemili, Ebenebe, Achalla the headquarters of the local government and Amanuke, the story is the same thing. In some parts of the council area, two neighbouring communities have been severed by fallen bridges, leading to a total absence of access to each other, while accessing the state capital, a journey of most times less than 10 kilometres, the indigenes have to go through about three local government areas to return back to the state capital.
In this way, their claims of being the food basket of the state have been diminished as their food stuff remain with them until traders find their way into the villages to buy their yams, cassava, garri and others at totally give away prices, only to sell back at cut throat prices as a result of money spent on high transportation.
During a visit to Amanuke village, one of the communities that make up Awka North LGA, THISDAY gathered that the community despite being home to several millionaires, and also aides to the governor of Anambra State, the community has suffered neglect in all areas, ranging from healthcare, roads, schools, potable water and other basic infrastructure. The erosion ravaged community a source said has suffered bad roads from the creation of the new Anambra State, and successive governments have failed to recognise or even fix its amenities, leaving the people in want.
The Awka North General Hospital sited in Amanuke, said to be built by community effort in the ’70s is one example of the decay. The mighty edifice, standing in the middle of an expansive compound has been abandoned for many years, leaving it to serve as a pen for goats and shelter for village miscreants. Our guide, Mr. Emmanuel Obinna told THISDAY that the hospital is supposed to serve the entire Awka North, but because of the abandonment of the property as a result of refusal by medical doctors to be resident in the area, residents have to source alternative means to access healthcare.
“A lot of us who still believe in western medicine patronise chemists here, they are the people that check us at least through the duration of the pregnancy. We also access our routine drugs from them. It is during delivery that we now go to Urum, where there is a healthcare post for delivery. Going to Urum is not also easy because the road is bad, so most times we have to use motorcycle to get to the place,” a rural woman told this reporter.
Mrs. Uju Onwunyelu, another rural woman who sells cassava at the popular Orie Amanuke told THISDAY that, “We have a lot of challenges in this town, but chief among them is the absence of a hospital.” He lamented that as a result of this, pregnant women, children and other sick people have to rely on patent medicine dealers for their health needs, and that they have to go to Urum, a neighbouring community each time a woman is to be delivered of a baby, while the condition has forced many to use traditional birth attendants, who are cheaper and more accessible, as there exists one in almost every family.”
Another respondent, Mrs. Grace Okafor, a farmer tasked government on roads, saying the lack of good roads was hindering them from selling their farm produce upon harvest. He said that to get to Awka, she has to charter a tricycle at a very high rate to take the goods to Awka where she can find willing buyers, instead of selling in the village where retailers come to buy them very cheap. She said the entire local government is populated by farmers, but lack of roads and functional transport system has driven them into subsistent farming, just to ensure survival.
In the area of educational facilities, members of the community lamented the backwardness of the area, blaming poor funding by the state governor for it. At Union Primary School, Amanuke, our guide, Obinna, pointed to a town hall being constructed by the leadership of the community with N20 million donated to it by the state government, right inside a school compound, questioning the rationale for building inside the school compound, or even having to build a town hall at all as the community already has three functional town halls. Looking at the primary school, though two new buildings have been erected through the Universal Basic Education project, THISDAY noticed that the buildings were poorly ventilated, just as inside of it lacked the basic necessities to make it conducive for health.
At Community Secondary School, Amanuke, THISDAY accessed its chemistry laboratory which our guide said had been abandoned because of its state of dilapidation. A former student of the school said the laboratory was abandoned after a new one was built, but the school management decided to use the new building as Physics lab, while retaining the chemistry lab in the dilapidated building. The school’s principal who refused to welcome our reporter said she was not interested in an interview, and also declined to introduce herself. She said she was not ready for an interview on the state of the school, referring this reporter to Awka for an interview with ‘the authorities’.
A community leader and pioneer transition committee chairman of Awka North, Hon. Evangelist Ebenezer Okafor in an interview lamented the neglect in the area, while also absolving government of some of the rot. For the abandoned general hospital, Okafor said the people of the area share partly in the blame for the collapse of the hospital, saying that low patronage and lack of use was the reason for the collapse. He said the people of the area prefer to patronise traditional medicine people, or even patents stores, because of the high bills from hospitals. For this reason, most of the doctors sent to the hospital feel redundant. But our guide, Obinna, insisted that it was not true. He said that because of the backwardness of the area, the bad road and others, medical doctors posted to the area do not accept to stay. He said they usually returned after a week assessment of the area to lobby for fresh posting, leaving the patients at the mercy of untrained nurses.
Another community leader, Chief Udegbunam Udegbunam while speaking on the measures adopted by the community to alert government of their suffering said the community has tasked and taxed itself severally, with hope to get some of their amenities working. He said as it stands, the community was also working to notify government of some of its challenges. He blamed the leadership of the community for the neglect, saying that because of divisions among them and Igweship tussle which has torn the town union apart, it cannot speak with one voice and work in unity to attract government presence in the community. He said only unity will help the community to speak with one voice to attract government presence in the community.
THISDAY however reached out to the local government chairman of the local government, Chief Onwuka Lawrence Emeka for reaction as to how he plans to liberate most of the communities in his local government area especially Amanuke, but a visit to his office was not successful and he was said to be out of office. One of his aides who refused to introduce himself however stated that the chairman was only appointed as a transition committee chairman a week ago and had only assumed office a day before, meaning that he may not be abreast with happenings in the various communities until he has gotten himself acquainted with the council area. Until then, the community will continue in its sorry state, hoping on government presence someday.