Special Report : CHINAZO ILECHUKWU –
The People of Umuma-isiaku in Ideato south local government area of Imo state have cried out to the State and Federal government to rescue them from gully erosion that is threatening to sack them from their community. Residents of the community can hardly access the only health facility located in the area due to gully at the entrance while a worship centre and primary school along Umuma-isiaku- Nkwerre road risk caving-in if urgent steps are not taken to arrest the situation.
Our Correspondent who visited the area reports that the people whose major source of livelihood is farming are now losing farm lands to the flooding. Umuma-Isiaku ancient kingdom in Ideato south local government is one of the communities that are threatened by gully erosion in Imo state with some areas measuring a depth of over thirty feet.
The valley nature of the topography appears to have exposed the people to more devastating effects of flooding that spans across four kilometers of the road that links the people to Nkwerre local government area of the state. Though the people have spent eight years without public power supply some electric poles bearing high tension cables in the area are gradually caving-in as a result of flooding.
The traditional ruler of the community Eze Gerald Ihekaibeya lamented that the erosion which has displaced people from umuoba, a nearby village got worse two years ago, and appealed to the government to come to their aid.
“It started from Mbakwe time but one time government came in and handled the erosion and now it is surfacing. There is a village called Umuoba they were all driven out by erosion, if you see our major road people from down cannot cross to the other side even to go to church. We are calling on the Federal and State government to come to our aid”…
Indigenes of the area Amasike Emeronye, Chidiebere Agwunobi and Chinenye Duru said the gully erosion had made life unbearable for them noting that driving to a neighboring town Nkwerre which should ordinarily take about five minutes now lasts close to one hour as the people have to travel round for alternative routes.
“We have tried on our own to see how to avert the flood that is causing this but as you can see it is not working this is a very important road that connects all these communities there is a maternity there you can imagine a pregnant woman trying to navigate this with pregnancy”. “We have other communities that are on the higher elevation than us so the consequence is that most of the flood water comes into our community and that has devastated both farmlands even the community assets. There have equally been near misses young children being washed away just that they were lucky to have adults around”.
“No road to pass if I dey Orlu rain wan fall na so I go de rush so that I go see where I go take pass. E get one bridge wey we do with plank as I wan buy pure water now na here I go follow carry am the go round inside bush the enter our house”
Mrs. Helen Uche is the officer in charge of a primary health care centre which is the only health facility in the area, she said accessing the centre often posed a challenge especially among the aged for fear of falling into gullies.
“Last year the front totally cut so we were using ladder to enter here could it mean that rain is falling now u cannot enter here the flood will be much last time they flagged off maternal and child health here the Chairman could not enter here because of the flood it was terrible. This road disturbs them the aged that used to come here for care to cross here is difficult for them. There is no portable water here sometimes I use my own small generator when I have delivery in the night or if there is patient in the ward”.
But are there steps being taken by the Imo state government to bring respite to the people of Umuma-Isiaku and other erosion prone communities, Dr. Iyke Njoku is the Commissioner for Environment.
“The state Governor has ordered my ministry to take a tour of the twenty seven local government areas, identify erosion sites in those areas and communicate to him. Umuma-Isiaku erosion site I intend to visit there in my schedule by next week while visiting other local governments I will see what is happening there and intend to make a report to make sure that we see what we can do. Erosion is a big problem in Imo state few days ago we had a virtual meeting with the minister of state for environment and we told her all the problems we have in the state so we pleaded with her that we need the help of the federal ministry of environment, we need the help of the World bank, we need the help of the ecological fund office in the Presidency”.
Dr. Njoku noted that Imo had more than two hundred and fifty erosion sites across the state and gave an assurance that the state would work closely with the federal government to address the situation. It is the expectation of the people of Umuma—Isiaku that the government at all levels will come to their aide and provide palliatives to avert the imminent disaster awaiting the community.