In this investigative report, OKECHUKWU ONUEGBU uncovers the impact of erosion menace in Anambra state.
“This is my husband’s grave. The erosion is an inch away to it. The major access road connecting Ubaha to Umudala village has been severed. Our economic trees, farmlands and three electric poles have gone down to the gully,” said Mrs Bridget Eze from Ubahu village in Nanka, Orumba North LGA of Anambra state. On October 15, 2019, the 77-year-old widow was in her house preparing breakfast when Obeagu gully erosion carved into her house following a heavy downpour. Two years ago, her children banned her from sleeping in the compound so she can be safe in case of emergency, but she comes there from time to time.
“I come here to cook and eat from 7.30am every day. Once it is 6pm, I park my things and return to my daughter’s husband place which is after Nkwoagu. That is where I sleep every night. My children gave me the order after the day I took ill at night and there was no means of going out. This place is no longer motor-able. Even motorcyclists don’t reach here again,” she added.
Obeagu erosion site is the newest in Nanka, a community gully has rendered many homeless. Among them were late Aguegbo families whose six bedroom and parlour have gone down to the gully, and Late Francis Okeke family who have abandoned their two-storey building besides the gully. Every village has, at least, an active erosion site threatening her inhabitants. These include Mbuze Udongwu in Ubahu village, Mbuze Nwaobunagu in Enugwu village, Mbuze Amako in Amako village, Mbuze Abana at Enugwu village. Nanka/Ekwulobia road by Nanka Police Station is under threat by erosion necessitated by closure of drainage system. There are empty lands and uncompleted buildings everywhere in the community but owners no longer border to farm or build on them, rather they buy lands or build at neighbouring communities.
A-43-year old community leader, Mr Gabriel Nwankwo said, “Aged parents who refuse to follow their children to their new homes are abandoned to their fate. For you to see your son’s new car, you have to trek for an hour or more to a Nkwoagu market where they are usually parked while coming home because our roads are not accessible again. Some even conduct marriage ceremonies and so on at their new homes whether in Nanka or not.”
Activist and founder of Rural Community Development Initiatives, Ikenna Ellis Ezenekwe, while recalling that the new erosion site was the same spot former Governor Peter Obi stood when he paid visit to another gully site in the community in 2009, said it would have been averted if the state government had fulfilled its promises of providing them with infrastructure, tree planting and others.
Like in Nanka, all communities in the state have at least one ecological problem. According to the state commissioner for works, Engr Marcel Ifejiofor, there are not less than 1,000 active erosion sites scattered across 179 communities in the state. At Enu Avomimi village in Enugwu-Ukwu, Njikoka LGA, the natural disaster divided a whole village into two unequal parts. Its victims travel through another community, Nimo and four villages whenever they wish to mingle with their ‘brothers.’
Mrs Rita Eduzo, 81-year-old widow from Avomimi-Enugwu-Ukwu is one of them. The erosion did not only restrict her movement but also made her household a habitat to wild animals. She said, “I stopped going out since one year ago. I have eyes problem and fear that I might fall into it while walking with my grandchildren. We live with wild animals. We see pythons, hyenas and other old animals.
“Economic trees like banana and are no more. No more farm lands or stream to fetch firewood or water. My grandchildren push wheelbarrow for hours to neighbouring Nimo town. The little pathway we used to crossover to reunite with our kindred for meetings or play has been cut off. It takes our children about one hour to reach their school which is in Enugwu-ukwu.”
An activist and founder of Erosion Voice, Mr Ugba Onyekwue, whose one-storey building is also threatened by gully said, “As you can see, there are four different active erosion sites in Avomimi alone. About 88% of our lands have been consumed. Each has over 20,000 feats deep. It expands every minute there is downpour. Umuedufute kindred cannot access Iruokwuma family again. They pass through Nimo community to three villages of Iruokwe, Ezi-elias, Osili before coming back here. Pregnant women rent or sleep with friends at neighbouring villages whenever their pregnancy is about seven months to avoid emergency.”
Achina in Aguata LGA is laden with similar crisis. Five horrific erosion sites have sacked 15 families’ ancestral homes in five villages of the community. These include Opkalanwa erosion site in Umueleke village, Okpara oshimili erosion site in Umueziyi village, Ezeokolo erosion site, Nwaifita erosion site and Umuezeuchu erosion site. These have equally severed the community from her neighbours namely, Onne, Umuchu and Enugwu Umunyia communities, who prior to 2018, take the route to theirs.
Even the abandoned Oye Achina, Onne, Ogboji roads construction awarded by former governor Peter Obi and flagged off in 2014 by the incumbent governor, Willie Obiano, have degenerated into a huge erosion site of about six feet due to inactivity, non-construction of drainage and flooding. Perhaps, the worst hit is Umueziyi village as its inhabitants currently pass through four communities, Ogboji, Umuezchukwu, Ngbologwu, and Akpo before they access the only market in Achina, Oye Achina.
The president general of Achina, Barrister Chitoo Ezeani, said they have written several letters to the state government but no response.
He said, “Some of these erosion menaces are man-made. Some are caused by wrong channeling of water by government and ongoing private university been constructed at our neighbouring community. Farmers have lost their lives while accessing their farms.”
In a similar vein, landlords and residents of Nkisi Aroli Street, Onitsha no longer sleep with their two eyes close due to fear that their buildings might collapse anytime. Since September 11, 2019, investigation shows that the area has lost over five houses including a church to natural disaster. Report shows that five buildings including St. Philips Anglican Church and a school owned by Redeemed Christian Church of God in Nkisi Aroli/Obeleagu, Inland Town, Onitsha are currently under threat.
Mr Arthur Mazeli, a landlord in the area, who has lost a gate, perimeter fence and toilet pits to gully, recounted that some landlords have abandoned their accommodation to rent accommodation at safer places without receiving government helps aside what he termed ‘secondary school mattresses’ brought to them by government.
Other erosion sites
Also, Awka, the Anambra state capital is not without ecological crisis. There are over ten active new and old erosion site wreaking havoc on government and private institutions in the capital city. The federal government secretariat located closer to the state Jerome Udorji secretariat and abandoned state government house, Grand Riviera Hotel, Federal High Court (although currently receiving attention), are under threats. The abandoned Oye-Abba Ezimezi Amawbia gully erosion might take over two churches beside it and the only road leading to Ezimezi village, Amawbia, Awka South LGA if unattended to till next raining season.
Erosion is also developing along the newly constructed Esther Obiakor dual carriage way at a spot closer to Gran Hermano Academy; just as it threatens to cut off Enugu/Onitsha old road by Mopol junction (Agu-Awka) and Haba bridge (by ring road) Umuawulu. John Elogwu Avenue (behind Government House) on August 12, 2019 lost its major access road to a gully which equally consumed about two plots of lands and uncompleted buildings. Two separate two-storey buildings and four shops were also threatened.
Also are the 100 foot road Nnewi, Nnewi North LGA; Umugama at Umuchu (Aguata LGA); Onitsha/Owerri federal road by Okija in Ihiala LGA; Umuchiana village in Ekwulobia Aguata LGA; the palace of Igwe Laz Ekwueme, traditional ruler of Oko in Orumba North LGA; and Chief Patrick Metchie road, Chief Fidelis Zegwu Okoye road, Oke-Ebo Estate (in Umueri Anambra East LGA) are all threatened by gully. At Ebenebe in Awka north LGA, a gully which has severed Ebenebe/Ugbenu/Mgbagbuowa road has diverted its route to the only secondary school serving the community and its environs (Community Secondary School Ebenebe) just as some kindred in the town such as Iruofufe, Umuonicha, Eziodo, Ugwuodede have become endangered species in the hands of the natural disaster.
Causes and ways forward
A geographer and lecturer at Nnamdi Azikiwe Universty, Awka, Mr Chukwudi Mzoiwu, said erosion in Anambra state was caused by climate change and human activities or violation of the state natural topography structured into highland area and lowland areas.
“Highland area is located at the southern part of the state like Aguata and Anaocha, while the lowland is located towards the northern, western and eastern part of Anambra. The lowland is faced with flooding, while highland faces erosion challenges,” said Mzoiwu.
He observed that most parts of the state have their drainages blocked as people disposes waste into them while some built on water ways forcing flood to create new route thereby leading to erosion. Investigation actually revealed that major parts of the state and federal roads in Anambra have no drainages even as those with it have either been filled up with sands or built upon.
“There is need for people to observe sanitation always. People should avoid cutting trees or cut and plant new ones. Government should plan, approve and supervise roads and buildings to ensure that people don’t build on water ways. People should plant grasses and flowers at home, use interlocking to allow water enter ground. Every building should have water collector installed to harvest water as our people were known for in the past,” he stated.
Corroborating this, the coordinator, Recover Nigeria Project, Comrade Osita Obi, blamed the state government for the erosion and flood menace in the state. “Government should demolish all the buildings that violate plans. From Sam Okeke, Obinagu, Ichida Street, Eke Awka, Ekwueme square, Amaenyi to Kwata are houses and estates built on natural water ways,” he stated.
The works commissioner agreed that most of the gully erosion sites in the state were caused by wrong channeling of water, failure of some roads and people who intentionally built and dumped refuse on water channels resulting in blockage of water flow.
He said the state government has set up a Design Review Committee whose obligations is to ensure that designs of roads meet international acceptable standards and also directed the state physical planning board to commence the removal of structures built on water ways to prevent blockages that could lead to erosion.
The commissioner listed some erosion sites currently been tackled to include those at Obosi Idemili-North LGA, Abba-Ukpo-Oyeagu road in Dunukofia LGA, and Ideani-Nnobi-Umuoji road in Idemili north LGA. The erosion site at Federal Secretariat/abandoned Government House by Alex Ekwueme square is currently been handled by Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP), a World Bank assisted project run in partnership with the federal government and state government.
Mr Emeka Achebe, the communication officer of NEWMAP, Anambra state chapter, said the agency has completed intervention on St. Thomas Aquinas/Neros Plaza erosion site Awka, Amachalla village Awka erosion site, New Heritage/Omagba erosion site, Ugamuma-Obosi erosion site, Ikenga Ogidi gully, one erosion site at Enugwu-Ukwu, Abidi- Umuoji erosion site, Nkpor Flyover, Nnewichi gully, Ojoto erosion site, Ire-Obosi erosion site, and Abagana erosion site.
Achebe urged those affected by gully to write them even as he enjoined communities to be weary of sand-mining, make by-laws and set-up environmental groups so as to inculcate habits of sanitation including tree planting, beautification, desilting of drainage, standard road designs, use of receptacles, proper evacuation of refuse and a host of others to people.