Enugu: Diversion Of Water Channels For Road Construction Endangers Community

In Breaking News, Health, Investigation

Every community prays for access roads to attract development and ease livelihood. In 2016, the Enugu State government constructed a nine-kilometer road network from Obechara, Ugwuechara down to Ikenga Hotels junction. Ben Aron, The Whistler, in this report, portrays how this celebrated road has endangered Umuwalugwu village in Umakashi community of Nsukka LGA.

The Genesis

One of the legacies of former Enugu State Governor Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is the construction of Obechara-Urban Girls-Ikenga Hotels road, spanning over nine kilometers. The contract was awarded to Arab Contractors, and it did a good job. Since its construction, the road, with its proper drainage channels, has been a beauty to behold for its smoothness. While motorists using the road enjoy it, natives of Umuwalugwu are gnashing their teeth over the agonies the smooth road has brought to them.

Diversion Of Waterways Causing Loss Of Lives – Youth Leader

Mazi Chukwudi Paul Omeke is a youth leader in Umuwalugwu village. He said, “Before the construction of the road from Obechara to Ikenga junction by Arab Contractors, there were waterways from different sources. After the construction, the entire channels were then directed to one drainage system, terminating at Ikenga junctions. It was where the diversion chamber was built, and the entire flood was routed to the Umuwalugwu-Agbani axis. Like a joke, the flooding, with its pressure, increased and created its pathways that today have turned into a deep gully.

The culvert that diverted the water to the endangered village.

“Many houses have been pulled down, some are falling. Generally, the good road is a nightmare to us, especially during rainy seasons. If it begins to rain, our people will be forced to remain wherever they are to avoid possible calamities. The soil is always slippery, and can easily wash people away. Two persons have been killed. In fact, the good road has brought untold hardship to our people. Before investors buy land from us. They build houses and establish businesses. But when this flooding started, nobody came again. Many also left.”

Flood Destroyed Our Sources Of Livelihood – Farmer

James Eze is a farmer. He said, “Before now, farming in Umuwalugwu was profitable. As you can see, we have rich arable land. But the flooding not only washed away the topsoil but has caused erosion on our farmlands. You can plant crops today, and return tomorrow to see that the entire farmland has been washed away. We resort to begging portions of land at Nru, Lejja, and other places to farm.”

Our Businesses Have Collapsed – Trader

Mrs. Monica Odo is a native of Umuwalugwu. She said she used to be a trader, but the flood has ended it. In her words, “If rain begins now, nobody could move out until it is over. Even when it is over, we do observe the echoes of flooding, which could last for hours, carrying all sorts of debris from far and near. Before, we had shops where goods were sold in the village. It is no longer so because not many people live within to patronize sellers. We have all closed shops.”

We Live In Fear – Mother Of Four

Chekwube is a mother of four children and a native of the village. According to her, “Whenever it rains and I am not around, I have my heart troubled because of the welfare of my kids. I instructed them never to step outside whenever it is raining. Again, if they are in school and it starts to rain, they should remain wherever they are until I return or someone is ready to guide them safely back home. We have been endangered since this road was constructed. The schoolgirl who was killed slipped off and was washed away. By the time we found her corpse, her head and other parts of her body had been seriously wounded aside drinking flood water.”

Government Ignored Our Cries – Community Leader

Chief Anthony Ezema is a prominent leader in the community. He said, “The erosion adversely affected my house as well as those of my neighbors. You can see our four-room apartment, kitchen, and toilet have been destroyed. We have cried to the state government since 2017. We took this matter to the state Ministry of Works. We even carried out a rally the same year. Then Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi visited Ikenga Hotels junction to look into our problem. I personally briefed him that the solution is for the channeling of the water through Ikenga to Ikwoka because even this one destroying our village passes through New Creation to the same Ikwoka. The governor said the water can’t climb the hill of Buildings Materials because it is ascending. I told him that tunnels would be the solution, instead of channeling it to our place. He then said Arab Contractors said it was impossible. He told us to look for a place for the construction of a borrow pit. The former chairman of Nsukka LGA, Mrs Stella Ugwu, was mandated to handle it. They deceived us and did nothing.

“We have done our best, but the situation has become hopeless. The house next to me belongs to Livinus Ezugwu. He has since evacuated his family to Nru after his building collapsed. We appeal to Governor Peter Mba to channel the water straight to Ikenga Hotels. That is the only solution. The pressure and drum of flood here are too much. Our anger is that our agonies are government-induced. We are on our own, and the state government and Arab Contractors deliberately diverted public waters to us: waters from Onicha Echara, Ugwuechara, Obechara, Isi-Akpu, Barracks.”

They Didn’t Follow Proper Steps – LEMC State Coordinator

Mr. Emeka Oko is the coordinator, Local Emergency Management Committee, Enugu State. He champions provisions of relief materials for disaster victims in the state. He said the natives did not seek relief materials through proper channels.

Quoting him, “You (this reporter) alerted me to this calamity, otherwise I was not aware. Having seen the photographs you sent to me, they should inform the council chairman of Nsukka LGA who will direct the council’s LEMC to embark on an on-the-spot assessment of the affected areas. It is advisable that it be done at the appropriate time, and not allow it to be moribund.

“They should have reported to the LEMC, who will then investigate it. If it is beyond them, the matter is reported to the State Emergency Management Agency. Depending on the gravity, SEMA will then inform the National Emergency Management Agency which is the coordinating unit in Nigeria. We need a report to activate us to make our own report to the SEMA and copy NEMA. They work hand in hand.”

How Nsukka LGA Intervened

It was gathered that when the flooding began to destroy buildings, the villagers reached out to the government, which attracted the attention of the Nsukka LGA. The council chairman, Mr Walter Ozioko, did not respond to calls and messages sent to him on this matter. His media aide, Ejike Okpe, however, acknowledged the enormity of the problem, adding that, “The council constructed a mini-dam somewhere around the troubled spot to check erosion.”

One of the endangered buildings

The dam, our correspondent reports, could not contain the pressure of the flood and was overran shortly after it was commissioned. Since then, there has not been any succor for the endangered natives.

Senator Ezea Reacts

Hon Chidi Obetta represents Nsukka/Igboeze South Federal Constituency in the National Assembly. He did not respond to correspondences sent to him over the matter. His colleague in the Senate, Barr Okey Ezea, however, demanded pictures and videos of the affected village. Upon his receipt of them, he wrote, “Ok thanks. I will want to see the exact location when I get home.” When probed on his possible next line of action, Sen Ezea kept mum.

It Is Solvable, But Government Lacks The Will – Expert

Obinna Ogbuke is a civil engineer. According to him, “Let them build a standard gutter along the waterways already created along Umuwalugwu in the range of 6ft by 5ft width so that water flow can be controlled. That is if the government does not want to channel the water to Ikenga Junctions, which is the lasting solution. Also, culverts should be constructed in some strategic areas. More borrow pits can also be constructed to harvest the water. But the most potent solution is to link the drainages to the axis of Ikenga Hotels road, which runs down to Agbani. That will stop the diversion to Umuwalugwu permanently. Ironically, the flood that passes through Umuwalugwu bursts out to the same Ikenga-Barracks road by Agbani’s side. So, it is not rocket science.”

Let Them Write Us – Commissioner Otiji

Gerald Otiji, an engineer, is the commissioner for works, Enugu State. He advised the leaders of the community to properly inform government authorities for necessary action. He said, “If they have a traditional ruler, or president general or community leader, or even you (this reporter), let a letter be done, on behalf of the community, to the governor, with the pictures of proof; States that some work was done, and the danger the diverted waters have been posing to the natives, especially during rainy seasons. Include also damage already done. Ask for at least a remedial work, so that rainy seasons would not be a nightmare to the natives. The governor that I know will minute it to the Ministry of Works, and I personally will set up a strong and experienced team to study it and then recommend a remedial approach to it and then we will fix it to save our people from any harm.”

This story was produced in partnership with Civic Media Lab under its Grassroots News Project

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