Politicians Unite to Fight Erosion Menace in Anambra

Disaster knows no political party, this informs why despite rivalry among Anambra politicians, they are united in urging the Federal Government to help fight erosion menace in the state, David-Chyddy Eleke reports.

Anambra State governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo is usually quick to state at public functions that the state is the erosion capital of Nigeria. When he has the opportunity of being with key players in the environmental system, both at the federal government level and at the level of international donor agencies, Soludo usually narrates that, while Lagos which is supposed to be the smallest state in terms of landmass in the country is recovering land from sea, Anambra, which should be the second smallest is now the smallest, owing to losing land to erosion on a daily basis.

Anyone who monitored the intensity of politicking in Anambra state during the last general elections would think that for every move made by one party, the other would counter it, just to score cheap political points. But in Anambra, it has become well known that disaster has no political party, and cannot spare anyone on basis of political affiliation. This is coming true with the recent alliance by all political parties in the call on the federal government to counter erosion menace in the state, especially the recent one, where a portion of Owerri-Onitsha expressway was cut off by erosion, subjecting motorists to the use of just one lane.

While there are over 1,000 active erosion sites in Anambra, which are daily depleting her landmass and also consuming investments, livelihood and sometimes lives, a recent menace of erosion in Oba, Idemili South Local Government Area, has caught the attention of all.

Last two weeks, after an intense rainfall, erosion suddenly cut off a portion of Owerri-Onitsha Expressway, at Oba.

One lane of the very spacious expressway was immediately condemned, while only one lane is functional. The road, which is a busy one, connecting Onitsha to Owerri has been described as a very important road. This is because, any vehicle coming into Onitsha through the Niger Bridge from South western parts of the country, and going to some parts of the South east and South south, must use the Onitsha-Owerri Road.

Owing to the importance of the road, the Senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial Zone, Senator Victor Umeh, who is a Labour Party stalwart, recently visited Oba to inspect the site. Umeh defied rumors of unrest in the South east, because of sit-at-home order, to visit and inspect the site, alongside some cabinet chiefs of Oba Community.

While inspecting the failed portion, Umeh who lamented the magnitude of the disaster said: “What we are seeing here is an emergency that the federal government should intervene in. If you look far to the other side of the gully, you will see that houses are threatened in this area, so for industries too. One of the cabinet chiefs in Oba here with us has an industry over there, which provides employment to the people, but it is being threatened.

“This part of the road has been totally cut off, and you can see that the only part of the road that is now being used is also threatened. This is beyond the control of the state government. So there is need for the federal government to step in. The other lane will not survive another two weeks from what we are seeing here.

“This is a very critical road, which links people from Lagos and other South west part of the country into South east and South south. Second Niger Bridge is just over there. I came into Anambra last night, and decided to come and see this for myself today. I will take this back to the Senate, and we will let the Senate President to also know that his people also use this road. We are sure that the Senate President, His Excellency, Senator Dr Godswill Obot Akpabio will intervene after seeing this by himself, and see how the National Assembly can intervene, at least on this section.

“If this road fails, nobody from the South south and part of the South east will be able to go to Lagos any more. This is a very critical road, and we hope that the federal government will intervene.”

Umeh during the visit narrated how the owner of Rojenny Games village, Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka, an APGA stalwart had bombarded him with videos of the level of devastation in the area. Rojenny Games Village is just a stone throw from the failed portion of the road. One may feel that Ezeonwuka, a staunch APGA stalwart would not want to reach Umeh, a Labour Party stalwart, but settle for someone from his political party, to report to, on the level of devastation.

Umeh represents Anambra Central, which is same area where Oba falls into, and having been a strong voice in the senate, both for Igbo people and his senatorial zone, may have informed the reason for Ezeonwuka’s choice of Umeh, to pressure on the devastation in his backyard.

Though Ezeonwuka was holidaying in the US as at the time Umeh visited the failed spot, the management of the games village also took the senator round the facility to reveal how erosion was gradually eating into the facility, having already pulled down a part of the fencing.

Just a day before the visit, Umeh had on the floor of the senate made a strong case on the need to declare emergency on the menace of erosion in the South east. He was supporting a motion by Senator Osita Izunaso, who made the call. Umeh called on the federal government to see reasons to tackle the erosion problem in the zone. Making particular reference to the failed spot at Oba, Umeh said it should be treated as emergency, adding that the work was too much for the state government to handle.

Already, investments, residences and source of livelihood are being threatened in the area, and the devastation is not respecting political affiliations. This may be why stakeholders in the state are also not considering political affiliations, but lending their voices to the call to get the federal government to act. A cabinet chief of Oba community, who owns a factory in the area, lamented that his factory, which provide employment for several indigenes of Oba community was on the verge of being taken by the huge gully.

Anambra State government is also not resting on its oars, over the issue. Anambra State government, headed by Governor Chukwuma Soludo, leader of APGA, has also sent a team to the site. The team from the state government, consisted of Chief of Staff to Governor Soludo, Mr. Ernest Ezeajughi; Commissioners for Works, Engr. Ifeanyi Okoma; Environment, Mr. Felix Odimegwu, and Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Christian Aburime; who were at the site, begged the federal government for intervention.

Ezeajughi during the visit corroborated reports of the multiplicity of erosion sites in the state, saying there were over 1,000 active erosion sites in Anambra State alone. He lamented that there was urgent need to tackle the Onitsha-Owerri Road erosion, as movement of goods and persons will be stalled once the other part of the road caves in.

He said: “We have over 1,000 active erosion sites in Anambra State. This is just one of them. We are acting on emergency. Because this Onitsha-Owerri road by Oba erosion wash-off is a major devastation, we are not waiting for the federal government, even though it is their responsibility. The people bearing the hardship are ndi Anambra, as such, Anambra State government has embarked on intervention to arrest the situation before other measures.”

The commissioner for Works, Mr Okoma said: “We are in talk with federal ministry works and Federal Road Maintenance Agency and they are already on it. But it will be a long process. We don’t have an option, we moved a contractor that will continue with the second objective, to stop further mudslides.”

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