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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Onitsha resident cry out as erosion gully allegedly claims 30 lives, swallows 10 houses



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Residents of Omagba Phase II and Enekwasumpu area of Nkpor, near the commercial city of Onitsha, Anambra state yesterday embarked on a peaceful demonstration to vent their anger over abandonment of erosion control project in the area.

They expressed that if the project remained abandoned till this year’s fast approaching rainy season sets in, the 30 lives, including school children and 10 buildings already lost to the gully erosion site would be a child’s play.

The demonstrators who carried placards with inscriptions: “Government, please save our lives. ‘The rainy season is fast approaching’. ‘We now sleep with our eyes widely open because of the rain’. ‘We are in great danger’, ‘Disaster imminent in our community’. ‘We besiege the government to hearken to our cries’. ‘Our community has become a garbage storage as a result of too many gullies”.

Speaking to newsmen at the erosion site, the in-coming President-General of Enekwasumpu Landlords/Tenants Association, Egemba Sunday Ndubuisi and  another resident, Chidi Ndibe lamented that so many school children have been swept away and drowned by the gully during last rainy season, adding that the essence of embarking on the protest was to attract government’s attention to come to their rescue before more havocs are caused.

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Egemba and Ndibe further lamented that the contract was awarded to Monier Construction Company, MCC since 2017 for the control of the erosion gully but unfortunately, pulled down all the trees planted by the residents as palliatives surrounding the gully and abandoned the project porously since November, 2020, thus causing more havoc claiming that the contractors used inferior materials in constructing some portions of the gully.

Hon. Ikechukwu Oguiyi, a resident and member of Grievance & site committee explained that they have done a lot to compel the contractor complete the job to no avail, adding that at a stage, the residents started suspecting that the committee had been compromised when in essence the committee members have been contributing their resources and logistics individually and collectively to expedite the completion of the project.

Oguiyi recalled that the World Bank Assisted erosion control project was awarded in 2017 and in 2018, the contractor, MCC commenced work from the upper John Nwadiogbu street end of Enekwasumpu but all of a sudden, they abandoned the project, leaving the area in a more battered form.

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Chief Christopher Chibuzo Okadigwe, a landlord in the area, recalled that his own four-storey building, livestock and properties worth millions of naira had been swallowed by the gully, just as one of the landlords whose one-storey building was about caving in, had died out of heart failure.

According to Okadigwe, “we want to know those handling the project so that we will dialogue with them because it will be most disastrous if this gully remains like this till the arrival of this year’s rainy season.

Efforts to get in touch with officials of MCC, the construction firm as at the time of filing this report, proved abortive but an official of Nigerian Erosion and Watershed Management Project, NEWMAP, the supervising project consultants, who spoke under anonymity, traced the stoppage of work to paucity of funds, adding that once government released funds, the project would continue in earnest.

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