In an interview that kicked off by 9am this morning at Ogene 98.3 FM, Mr Olisa Leo Osemeka a Civil Rights Advocate and member of Greater Onitsha Foundation amongst other things, shed more light in the current ecological situation in Anambra state and how much the gully erosion has caused damage so far.
Mr Leo said that the incomplete drainage that the government has left since last year, is causing more harm to the people of Nkisi Aroli and Obeleagu communities; stating that the moment it rains, just once, it will bring great havoc. The people of obeleagu are afraid that their houses will collapse in a very short time from now as the raining season approaches.
He said, “that’s why we are asking the government to revisit that project with a view to completing the rechanneling into Nkisi so that the water can go straight down there and flow out, if it is left like that, the water will stay there and it will recede with all the sand flushed away alongside the drainage system that the government has spent money on and by extension destroy the houses on that axis”.
The host of the show ‘Political Mirror’, Mr Frank Chukwuebuka attested to the fact that he saw about 4 houses that are on the verge of collapsing, expressing his surprise about the nature of the place, because according to him, years ago it wasn’t that terrible. In response to that, Mr Leo squarely blamed it on the Onitsha people saying the entire body of water that comes from Inland town goes all the way through the entire channeling because of the way Onitsha was planned by the colonial masters; the water was channeled to flow through Nkisi down to river Niger, but unfortunately the channeling has not held its purpose because the people dump refuge into the drainage systems.
However, the situation is also due to the lack of a proper and strategic waste management system, which he mentioned is an area where the Onitsha North LGA has failed the people woefully. “I don’t believe the people would dump their refuge into the drainage if they had a proper way to dispose of it”. He also said that although, the people ought not to act irresponsibly because the government hasn’t played their own role.
The refuge dumped into the drainage which consists of empty plastic cans and nylon bags amongst other things have blocked the drainage during the rains, these waste products are responsible for the blocked channel between Nkisi Aroli to the Nkisi river and as a result the water began to recede.
It was stated that the gully erosion is about 35meters deep with about 29 areas submerged already in the erosion.
In a bid to explain how the people have drawn the attention of the government, New Map and even World Bank to the problem and how they’ve responded; Mr Leo stated that viral videos visualizing the collapse of two buildings, of which one was a three story building, due to the erosion, caught the attention of the government.
He mentioned that the Obi of Onitsha did a good job at the time by visiting the place and doing so consistently, reaching out to the government for help; the area was also visited by New Map, the Local Government Chairman as well as the Minister of State for Environment, Mrs Sharon Ikeazo who made promises as did the Governor himself.
“I think the traditional leadership of Onitsha have done the best they can because they do not have any administrative responsibility in that regard, other than wielding their affluence to attract the government” he said.
According to Mr Leo, the State Assembly seems to be a bit handicapped, because members of the house of assembly have spoken to the contractor who said that he cannot continue the project without the payment due him and that he hasn’t been paid for the job he did at Obeleagu; and these bills are not to be footed by them.
Mr Leo declares the situation as a national emergency that requires concerted and collaborative efforts to manage, saying that ecological issues are in the exclusive list for the government. He worried that more buildings and properties worth millions will be lost if nothing is done to correct the situation; mentioning that whatever still holds those buildings will be destroyed once the rains come in its high density.
Divulging his pain, Mr Leo talked about how the government makes situations like these a political propaganda and do not handle a problem until it becomes embarrassing to them not minding the havoc its been causing the citizens; he stated that the incoming government administration may even campaign with it, promising to fix the problem in other to cajole citizens to vote for them, which is not supposed to be so.
“We don’t care where the help comes from, the bottom line is that we need help in that Obeleagu and Nkisi area”. He stated that as a civil society organisation, GREATER ONTISHA FOUNDATION only concerns itself with the welfare of the people living in the affected areas and he called out once again to the government to remember their promises and come to the aid of the people of Nkisi Aroli and Obeleagu.
He pleaded with the government, saying that, even though it is the right of the citizens to get it done he still begs Governor Willie Obiano, saying that he knows the promises made by him were genuine, hence the people are in great need if the manifestations of it, before it is too late. He reminded the government that the Nkisi stream needs to be dredged and the areas where erosion has occurred ought to be sand filled.
“The project will not eat deep into the government revenue, do this and the people will be happy, lives will be protected and properties saved”.
WRITTEN BY: COURTNEY OGBE