This rural community, despite its contribution to the socio-economic development of the state, has remained obscure in every ramifications. OKECHUKWU ONUEGBU reports that the community leaders are crying out for help.
“Well, I have never used that place for childbirth. You need to go there to see things yourself. There are no drugs, no power supply, water or enough bed space for the sick let alone women on delivery. That is why we prefer pharmacy shops for delivery,” says Mrs Ngozi Adibe. Adibe, a-32 year-old mother of four and petty trader was referring to Awba-Ofemili Primary Health Care Centre (PHC), a dilapidating town hall building turned into a health institution.
Awba-Ofemili is one of the 10 communities in Awka North Council Area, a food basket of Anambra state. Others are Amansea, Achalla, Ebenebe, Ugbenu, Ugbene, Urum, Mgbakwu, Amanuke and Isuaniocha communities. Their arable lands position them in good map of the state in rice farming, cassava, yams, cocoyam, vegetables and others.
Awba rice specifically is among the most sort for specie among local rice- dominating markets in the state and beyond. Also adding to her glory are Nnam rivers and other streams which have naturally turned all the people into fishmongers. It’s generally believed that every visitor to the community is usually welcomed with a fresh pepper soup whose fish is obtained directly from rivers.
However, although Awba Ofemili had produced two commissioners in the state namely, Mr Sebastian Okoye, former commissioner for environment and Mr Nnamdi Meko, commissioner for agriculture, the community is bereft of basic amenities including a functioning healthcare entre. Awba-Ofemili Primary Health Care Centre built by former Governor Peter Obi through the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) was never equipped till the incumbent governor, Willie Obiano took over.
Obiano, who is in his sixth year as governor, did not also fix it till it got vandalised by unknown hoodlums. The entire edifice is currently occupied by grasses and reptiles. The state government only managed to setup another PHC in a town hall building riddled with cracks on its wall, broken wood windows and others with no resident doctor, drugs, perimeter fence, security, water and power supply.
Mrs Chioma Chidebe, another resident of the community, disclosed that the pitiable condition of the PHC forces pregnant mothers to seek medical attention including delivery at home maternities or pharmacy shops or travel to Ebenebe or Awka.
“There are no doctors and drugs. We don’t have resident doctors and nurses in the place too. They don’t operate at night due to the deplorable condition. Many have lost their lives due to lack of this,” she bemaoned.
Other social amenities also lacking
The much-publicised Amansea-Ebenebe-Ugbenu- Ugbene-Awba Ofemili road had been awarded and rewarded many times without action. The less than 30 minutes drive from Awba to Awka, the state capital, currently takes over an hour by road users amidst its pitiable condition. In 2013, when former Governor Obi was winding off, works commenced on it from Amansea but ended at Assemblies of God Church/ Obuno village Ebenebe axis immediately he left office on March 17, 2014.
The incumbent governor revoked and rewarded the contract to another firm yet nothing to show for it. From Amansea to Ezu Bridge which ought to connect the rehabilitated one at Ebenebe has also turned impassible. From the exact portion where it was abandoned to Awba Ofemili is presently a deathtrap to the five communities that access it, and the entire communities in Eziagu LGA of Enugu state that share boundaries with them. The base of the gutters constructed to hold the flood has been exposed as the floods have taken over the road.
Not even a resolution passed by the state House of Assembly on November 28, 2019, urging Governor Obiano to direct the works commissioner to complete it had not been yielded to. The motion sponsored by member representing Awka North state Constituency, Mr John Nwokoye, had observed that it would help to enhance the socio-economic activities of his people, employment and food. In 2018, some portion of the road was among those listed by the federal government as ongoing federal road linking Anambra to Enugu states but nothing has happen to effect. All the five communities accessing the road share boundaries with Enugu state.
The abandoned road project had claimed many lives including two brothers from Ebenebe, Mr Ikechukwu and Obinna Nwoye, who lost their lives at Amansea portion of the road on December 17, 2018. A priest at Awba Ofemili, Fr Patrick Ekwuno, who was shot at his refectory by unknown gunmen in 2002 died on reaching hospital at Awka probably due to distance journey caused by the bad road. Even the five communities respective policing network, branches of Anambra Vigilante Service are having hectic time in combating crime in those areas.
The third in command of Awba Ofemili Vigilante Group, Mr Chukwudi Onwuemene, had in media chat in 2019 recalled how they battled five armed bandits on July 8 and 9, 2019 during which himself and their youth chairman, Mr Emmanuel Okafor Chukwunenye got wounded. Although they succeeded in arresting one of them, three fled through bush, while one escaped with a vehicle even though they deflected the four tires. The security men were also unable to contact their counterparts in other communities because Awba Ofemili has no functional telecommunications.
“We have lost so many lives on the road. Some sick people died on the road while travelling to Ebenebe or Awka to access Medicare. Our farmers are not finding it easy to transport their agricultural produce to cities. The cost of transportation is also on the high side due to the bad road. We don’t know if that is why no network provider like MTN, Glo or 9mobile is willing to connect us. One has to travel to our neighbouring communities before he or she can make phone calls,” Mr Ifeanyi Aguna, an indigene lamented.
To travel from Awka to Awba Ofemili via buses cost between N600 to N1000, while some motorcyclists (okada ridders) could charge N1500 or above to convey anyone from Amansea to Awba Ofemili. The community managed to connect to the national grid in 2019 through communal effort and the state government financed N20 million community Choose-your Project Initiative.
Chief Alex Otike, who is secretary general to the cabinet of HRH Igwe Ezekwesili Maduagwuna, traditional ruler of Awba Ofemili cried out saying,
“The most surprising thing is that we are always in support of the government. We have been voting massively for All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). In 2017 and 2019, we gave the party highest votes in Awka North. The state government should come to our rescue. Our people are suffering. We don’t have potable water. We are still fetching Nnam rivers for drinking and for other purposes.”
Nnam rivers, the Awba Ofemili only source of water is reddish in colour and undrinkable. Even a water tap constructed in the community by a multinational company, Guiness Nigeria PLC named ‘Water of Life Project,’ is not different from Nnam rivers in colour and taste.
“The water of life is from Nnam rivers. We are begging the government to give us potable water. It won’t cost them much. We are also appealing to the state government for construction of Awba Ofemili to Achalla road which would make it possible for us to access our local government headquarters within 20 minutes or less. It would be very easy to connect Ayamelum LGA to Onitsha if government should hearken to our cries for provision of social amenities, “ he added.
Awka North local government headquarters at Achalla is one that requires people from the council area to access after passing through four other local government areas such as Awka South, Dunukofia, Njikoka and Oyi owing to poor infrastructure. The easiest and shortest routes like Awba Ofemili to Achalla, Ebenebe to Mgbakwu and Isuaniocha-Achalla and other roads are death traps which if put in good condition can take less than 10 minutes to connect the respective communities to their centre of power.
The traditional prime minister (Onosorueze) of Awba Ofemili, Chief Benard Nwanelo, in an interview appealed for the state and federal government intervention at resolving the boundary issue between the community and their neighbour, Ibite-Olo in Ezeagu local government area of Enugu state.
According to Nwanelo, the land tussle, which had claimed many lives and properties, has further made them to abandon farming for three years to avoid clashes with Ibite Olo people.
He also implored the federal government to take over the road, noting that if completed, it would not only boost the socio economic activities of Anambra and Enugu states and federal government, but provide easy transportation for both people.
Contacted, the state commissioner for information and public enlightenment, Mr C. Don Adinuba, disclosed that the state government had been on the boundary matter for a while, adding that, “We are now waiting for the National Boundary Commission to delineate the boundary.”