“Ideato may not exist in the next 20 years”-Green Globe
By: Ifeanyi Onyekachi
The devastating effect of gully erosion on innocent victims whose lives and property are threatened by this natural, or is it, artificial concurrence is better imagined than experienced. People living in erosion prone areas, such as some part of Ideato nation, suffer both emotional and psychological trauma, when they imagine the uncertainties that await them as their lands are surreptitiously chopped off and sign of imminent submergence of the entire vicinity stares them straight in the face.
Some of the gullies in these areas are so deep that they can swallow up to 3 electric poles each standing on the other. Such sites send cold sensation down the spines of keen observers and potential victims who haplessly watch as their landed property, buildings and even living apartments worth millions of naira gradually disappear before their very presence.
In spite of the red alert given to people living in flood prone areas to vacate, the damming challenge before them is the palpable fear of cutting off the emotional and spiritual attachment linked to their ancestral home by moving elsewhere. And when it becomes inevitable to relocate, where will they go? How responsive and responsible has the government of the day risen to this challenge either by way of controlling the erosion menace or properly relocating the affected? These are questions begging for answers. Although virtually all parts of Imo state is affected by the erosion brouhaha, the Ideato nation is worst hit.
While I was trying to prepare for this article, I took a mental voyage to the world of literature to properly understand the concept of erosion; I stumbled on an environmental newspaper called Green Globe. The paper which was widely circulated in Imo around 2012 and was anchored by Barr Zaak Okoronkwo, concentrated on environmental issues especially erosion menace. In one of its banner titles, it X-rayed the monumental flood challenges in Ideato and opined that if something urgent is not done to ameliorate the dire consequence of erosion in Ideato, the clans will no longer exist in the next 20 years. This is shocking!
It prompted my desire to investigate government effort in abetting this hydra headed monster occasioned by both artificial and natural causes. Imo people need to know who and who are responsible for the federal government ecological fund accruable to Imo state over the years, or has the state been consistently exempted from this fund? Since I wanted explanation and could not reach the Senators and members of House of Representatives from Imo state , I decided to visit one of the lawmakers in Imo state House of Assembly who by fair judgment is the most accessible, empathetic with deep rooted heart of human kindness. Incidentally he is from one of the areas that are being ravaged by erosion-Ideato North.
I was face to face with Hon Innocent Arthur Egwim, member resenting Ideato North state constituency in Imo State House of Assembly (IMHA). This multiple award winning legislator was heartbroken as he spoke with heavy emotion on the excruciating suffering of the people of Ideato North who are ravaged by flood and gully erosion.
The honorable knows each and every erosion site by name, community by community, having visited the areas himself. My investigation also shows that Hon Egwim had made frantic efforts (as a lonely voice in the wilderness) to mobilize hugely towards finding possible remedy to the pathetic situation of erosion problem in Ideato north. He has extended his search for solution far and near and currently discussing with relevant agencies and government on sustainable action to avert what he called “probable landslide” in the area. It is, however, a common knowledge that erosion, especially at the devastating level it presented itself in Ideato North, is beyond the effort of a single lawmaker. Egwim’s empathetic disposition has always energized his determination to discharge his legislative calling with fear of God and to the benefit of Imo people especially members of his immediate constituency.
No wonder he also recently mobilized the honorable members of Imo state House of Assembly to his community to enable them appreciate the patient a people who contributes all their quota to the development of Imo state and Nigeria but have been cut off from electricity supply for many years now. In fact, they were disconnected from the national grid. He visited the headquarters of Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) where he met with the management team and tabled a strong worded complaint against gross marginalization of his people in power distribution. The visit yielded promises. Whether the promises will be fulfilled or not is left to EEDC.
The lawmaker has, however, maintained that just as lack of power is a challenge in Ideato north, the devastating effect of erosion is yet another, but both according to him, will be surmounted. It is therefore worrisome that the National Assembly members from Imo State (with the exception of ...) have consistently failed to take up issues that affect the communities that sent them to Abuja in the first place. They are better positioned to facilitate various government projects to the state including the ecological fund to check erosion, but they rather turn the other way in most cases. It is only when they abdicate their responsibilities that honorable members like Egwim who rarely interface with the ‘almighty’ federal government, who has no budgetary allocation, no ecological constituency funding, no special intervention fund from the state government, became overburdened with constituency challenges.
For example, a report from Sun newspaper of July 13th, online report by The Nation of same date and other online and hard copy reports which I monitored listed about 15 states that benefited from N1.6billion released by the federal government to check flood and erosion. Imo was conspicuously absent. The states include Edo, Sokoto,Ekiti,Osun, Akwa Ibom, Kebbi, Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia, Lagos, Niger, Kwara, Plateau, Beyelsa and Oyo. If for any reason Imo is excluded, then our lawmakers in Abuja must be preparing to return home for non performance. But if the latest report we heard from the side that Imo was erroneously excluded and has been included is true, such fund must be judiciously deployed to the trouble areas such as Ideato North gully erosion sites. Hon Egwin should be made member of a body that will manage the resources to ensure that the troubled areas receive due attention, since he has won the confidence and trust of his people through transparency.
We are aware that the fund will be disbursed with dispatch as the Acting President; Prof. Yemi Osibanjo has already directed the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, to disburse the fund from the federal government ecological account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
By this gesture, the federal government has demonstrated the need to protect flood prone areas to avoid a kind of tsunami, or the imminent landslide that Hon Egwim said looms in Ideato North. The legislator further passionately appealed to the government to control the flood that pours into Ideato north from Umunze, Okigwe and its environ, pointing out Urualla, Uranyira/Isiokpo, Umuago Nduiche road as erosion disaster areas.
Further investigation shows that a number of buildings and more than 10 villages within the Urualla gully axis are in danger of extinction. Vanguard online report in 2015 also indicated that pupils and students within these crisis areas in Ideato north may no longer have schools to attend as erosion at Ubaha has almost taken over Akpulu Secondary School. The pathetic story of Mr Everest Emosa who lost 3 bedroom bungalow and valuable worth 5 million naira and Mr. Emma who counted loses of over 18 plots of land to erosion must also be mentioned.
We must however appreciate World Bank/Nigeria Erosion Management Project (NEWMAP) and Federal Agricultural Organization (FAO) that are making effort to control the menace in some of the areas such as Umuturu, Ezemazu , Urualla gully sites. They should complete uncompleted projects so as to fulfill the yearnings and expectations of the people and complement the effort of Hon Egwim who has shown more than enough commitment in championing the cause of erosion control in his state constituency through strong advocacy.
The people of the area must shun any action or inaction that will escalate the erosion problem. Man is surely a causative agent when he takes to unauthorized excavation, digging, mining and blockages of waterways.
While I call on Hon Egwim to keep up his good work and probably organize enlightenment campaign against erosion in his constituency, I enjoin Imo State N/A representatives to borrow a leaf from his outstanding legislative prowess to all ways project and protect their constituencies in the national assembly.
The indelible imprint in the sand of legislative history in Ideato North which Hon Egwim has stamped has become a tall standard for many who will come after him. His commitment to duty has sorted him out among his peers for unsolicited truly deserved honor, many which he politely turned down.
I really got it twisted when I saw him use sensitive documents directly related to his person such as international passport, official identity card and other materials to surety job seekers from Ideato North who bestride his office.
Most state constituencies are not that lucky hence Ideato North made a good choice in sending Hon Innocent Arthur Egwim, a lawyer, as their representative in IMHA.
On a different note, I and my family congratulate the entire members of Egwim’s family for successfully handing over the hands of Hon Egwim’s second daughter, Chidinma in marriage. It was a well attended traditional marriage ceremony in his Isiokpo country home recently.
Ifeanyi Onyekachi can be reached on 08034453068