By; PAMELA EBOH Awka
Three Anambra State erosion communities, Agulu, Nanka and Oko have sent a save-our-soul (SOS), to the Country Director of the World Bank in Nigeria.
The community leaders regretted that the delay in starting work on the approved sites had worsened the situation in the affected communities.
Addressing journalists in Awka, the Presidents’ General of the three communities in company of the Anambra State president of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief Damian Okeke Ogene, who is the coordinator of Erosion Management Committee in the area said the delay in combating the disaster had led to the recent loss of four more houses to the deep gully.
According to them, occupants of the lost homes have become refugees in other neighbouring communities.
A statement signed by the traditional ruler of Oko, Igwe Laz Ekwueme, the traditional ruler of Agulu, Igwe Innocent Obodoakor and their Nanka counterpart, Igwe Godwin Ezeilo read: “The communities of Agulu, Nanka and Oko, are constrained to notify you of the grave situation and the havoc being unleashed on our communities by the erosion menace, which has continued to escalate, resulting in loss of lives, households and threatening our existence, especially for the poorest people in our communities.
“We are aware that Governor Willie Obiano contacted the Federal Government and World Bank, who gave assurance that Agulu-Nanka-Oko is of great significance to Nigeria and World Bank, having defied many previous attempts.
“The governor assured us that the World Bank and Federal Government are desirous of tackling the menace with a promise to start work soonest. To date, we have not seen any action and officials of NEWMAP keep saying that they are working on it.. We are now extremely frustrated as our previous pleas have not yielded any result.
“Some time ago, officials of NEWMAP paid several visits to our three communities and mobilized us to support their preliminary works, like engineering design, survey, resettlement plan and environmental impact assessment. They sensitized our people on how we can help to stop erosion and how we should relate with the contractors when they eventually start work.
“Copies of these studies were given to us by NEWMAP after approval by Anambra State government, Federal Government of Nigeria and the World Bank. With these reports, we were assured that NEWMAP was ready to invite contractors to begin work at our sites.
“We are very exhausted by too many studies that are not yielding any action. Our people are restive and have accused the community leadership of taking money from World Bank to keep quiet about the lack of action.
“The false accusation is not fair on us and the reputation of the World Bank. We therefore deem it necessary to inform you of this situation and humbly seek your urgent intervention as we approach another season of rainfall.
“The rate at which the erosion is ravaging is better imagined than seen. You might be surprised that since your people visited last year, four more houses have caved into the deep abyss of the dreaded gully. The storm water drain, which has been a major check on the flash floods, is on the verge of being imploded. You could imagine what would happen next if the water channel is broken as it is already being undercut.
“We are, therefore, pleading that you use your good office to cause urgent intervention at Agulu-Nanka-Oko as promised by NEWMAP without delay. It is our sincere and humble advice that any further delay in taking immediate action will not only result in further loss of lives and properties, but also add to escalated costs.”
While expressing gratitude for being among the communities whose sites were slated to be tackled by the World Bank through the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project, NEWMAP, the comminity leaders lamented that the long continued delay was causing so much frustration in the community.