Agulu-Nanka-Oko-Ekwulobia erosion, a ticking time bomb
By O’star Eze
Studies have shown that Anambra state has the highest number of active erosion sites in the south east. Agulu in Anocha LGA, Nanka and Oko in Orumba North and Ekwulobia in Aguata LGA are worst hit by the menace. Correspondent, O’STAR EZE, looks at the gravity of erosion and possible ways to contain the problem.
The first erosion invasion
It has been established that the reason Anambra state appears more prone to erosion than other states is because of the unique loose top soil it has which is easily washed off by flowing water usually from rainfall. Honourable Dozie Akunne, an ecologist, suggested that though effort had been made by the federal government to recover the Ekwulobia/Oko federal road already claimed by an erosion site, yet, embarkments and water channels built on the site to contain the erosion were not being maintained; thus, the foundation, columns and bars were gradually caving in and the erosion gulf widening.
In his words, “Aguata topography is prone to erosion because, the top soil is a loose sand easily washed away by flood. Erosion has been a recurrent issue in our ecological history as Igbo people, but we devised means of checking it vis-à-vis catchment pits in every homestead and along streets.”
Akunne disclosed that erosion sites in Ekwulobia and the environs started expanding as a result of urbanisation whereby people were building their houses without building erosion controls as the natives did in the past.
“In our native history, we learnt that each family used to have individual catchment pits; and there were communal catchment pits dug by age grades, where the rain water washed into.
“With the absence of these catchment pits as a result of urbanisation, the flood waters started rushing over the earth with uninterrupted speed and given that Ekwulobia is located on an elevated plateau, the water used to flow from Ekwulobia down to a slope, and if there is anything like erosion, it will become worse.”
Communal efforts to combat erosion
Since the recent onslaught of erosion on these communities, there have been communal efforts to contain the erosion. In Ekwulobia, for instance, this paper gathered that in the early 90s, over 30,000 dollars was crowd-funded to construct the first water channel at Umuchiana village, Ekwulobia, and the channel lasted for about 10 years before it collapsed in the year 2000, because of lack of maintenance. With that development, the erosion expanded and threatened to engulf the federal road that ran across Ekwulobia and Oko. It was also gathered that some villages directly affected by erosion conduct crowd funding from time to time to do palliatives on the embarkments and water channels.
People lost their homesteads, farmlands and other inheritances.
According to a resident of one of the houses on the precipice of the erosion site in Umuchiana, a certain man from the Anyaeji family in Umuchiana had been sending in money for a two-storey building to be erected for him in his village. The house was ready and he came down to the village to celebrate it only for him to wake up the next morning and the building was no longer there. It had been consumed by the gnawing erosion site.
IDP camps set up, then, deserted as Igbo communal system set in
This paper gathered that at the peak of the erosion onslaught, IDP camps were set up to integrate those, who were already displaced as sensitisation ensued to coerce those living in the most threatened homesteads to vacate them and set up camp at the IDP camp. However, because of the legendary Igbo system of being one another’s keeper, the internally displaced were quickly absorbed and rehabilitated by their kit and kin.
“Our people have lost their ancestral homes. A newly constructed grave was washed away at some point. IDP camps were set up for the internally displaced but they did not stay there for long as their kit and kin quickly absorbed them and facilitated their reintegration into the society,” Akunne said.
FG’s 1 billion naira and the controversy
The federal government reportedly released 1 billion naira to combat erosion. We learnt it was specifically meant for the erosion site at Umuchiana; the one that threatened the federal road. But it was later said that the money was meant for all the erosion sites in Anambra state.
Akunne revealed, “The government started with a contractor called Archmore. They did some work at the site; but they were not technically equipped to handle such magnitude of erosion. The government, along the line, changed the contractor from Port Harcourt. He finished the work, recovered the road and left the site.”
However, Akunne had this to say, “We were told that the contractors were supposed to sand-fill the gulf created by the erosion to some point; but that never happened. Immediately they recovered the federal road, they abandoned the whole thing.”
He noted that recently, some of the columns and embarkments have gone bad because of lack of maintenance.
“If not for the people of Umuchi village in Ekwulobia, who mobilised funds to carry out a palliative work, it would have been worse than it is now.
“That structure needs to be maintained adequately. The embarkment that was built to hold the erosion have been eaten deep by floodwater and needs to be urgently fortified before it eats in again. The erosion has eaten 15 feet deep from the Oko area and is advancing towards Ekwulobia again.
He said, “The World Bank, NEWMAP and several other groups, have visited the erosion site and made inquiries but nothing has happened; yet, and the situation gets grimmer every day. This is a critical federal road that needs to be protected.”
Erosion site beyond the state government – Anagbogu
A stakeholder in Anambra South, Chief Titus Anagbogu, said the erosion menace had gone beyond what individuals, communities, local governments or the state government can handle. He called on the federal government and non-governmental organisations to see the erosion menace in Anambra state, especially the subject matter; Agulu-Nanka-Oko-Ekwulobia erosion site, as an issue of urgent attention.
In his words, “I know that some money had been put into the site. Yet, I think we have not done enough in the area of land reclamation and the stage the erosion is now is beyond what the state government can handle. So, we are begging the federal government and other concerned bodies to intervene before the situation gets out of hand.”
Threatened families not ready to move
Our correspondent reported that families threatened by erosoon, who lived close to the erosion gulf in Ekwulobia and Oko, were not ready to move to safer grounds. A new structure was seen to have been newly erected less than three months earlier by one of the families. Their neighbor said that they erected the structure when they were about bury their father.
According to Mrs Ukoma Ezeonyekwelu, who lived near the palace of Igwe Laz Ekwueme, the traditional ruler of Oko whose residence was only a few metres from the bank of the erosion site.
“We are in God’s hands. We do not have anywhere else to run to. My husband cannot afford to buy land anywhere else and erect a building. We pray every night for God to prevent the erosion from getting to our building and we cautioned our children from playing near the gulf.
The member of the Federal House of Representatives representing Aguata Federal Constituency, Honourable Chukwuma Umeoji, told Orient Weekend that the federal parastatal responsible for the environment was already sitting on the matter and that soon, actions would be taken to address the erosion menace.
In his words, “All I can say is that the bodies responsible for our environment have started holding meetings to address this issue and we shall soon start seeing result.”