Thursday, 12 January 2017

Excitement as work on erosion sites nears completion



Members of House of Representatives Committee on Environment and Habitat headed by Hon. Obinna Chidoka, representing Idemili North and South Federal Constituency, visited Abia State for an on-the-spot assessment of the progress of work at the Aguwa, Pepple and Akpu streets gully erosion sites at Aba South Local Government Area. 

For over a decade, Ogbor Ancient Kingdom in Aba North Local Government Area of Abia State and other communities contiguous to it have been battling some ecological disasters.

The situation became worse so much so that commercial and residential houses and farmlands were submerged through landslides and washing off of the soil. This situation results in massive gully erosion sites that dot the area..

Some of the places affected by the gully erosion are Pepple, Aguwa and Akpu roads respectively.

After several representations to the state and Federal Governments, there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel as the Federal Government, according to reports, through the Federal Ministry of Environment and National Committee on Ecological Problems; Ecological Fund Office, Federal Secretariat, Abuja awarded the contract for the project to Bilijoe + Berger Nigeria Limited in2011. With the award of the contract, the communities heaved a sigh of relief.

Southeast Report gathered that the communities’ joy was, however, short-lived when the contractor handling the project suddenly abandoned the project unannounced for nearly one year. The situation caused members of the community to ask so many unanswered questions.

Southeast Report investigation revealed that the contractors abandoned the project because funds were not forthcoming after the initial mobilisation fund.

A source in the community who appealed not to be named due to security reasons told our correspondent that the situation went from bad to worse as the gullies that are over 35 feet deep began to dot the area; thus forcing many of the residents out of their ancestral homes

“The contractors suddenly disappeared from site and when we made inquiries, we learnt that they were alleging that the Federal Ministry of Environment, after the initial payment to mobilise them to site, failed to release more money for them to continue the job. The situation became bad that the efforts they (contractor) had put in place to check the over 32-feet deep gully was about being in futility as the rains began to wash away the sand-filled gully. Some people left their houses and relocated to other parts of the commercial city in order to avoid being caught up in the process.

“Suddenly, in late 2013 and early 2014, the contractor went back to site to the relief of some of us who were still thinking on what next to do and today, as you can see, they have completed over 80 per cent of the work.

“We learnt that their arrangement with the Federal Government was to sand-fill the gullies in Aguwa and Akpu roads respectively, but the project will not be complete if they were not properly tarred,” one of the residents said.

The cry of members of Ogbor community settlers may have been heard by the Federal Government and their suffering will soon be a thing of the past as a team of members of House of Representatives on Environment and Habitat visited the project to assess the progress of work on the project.

They are in the state to see some of the works that have been executed by the ecological office and to see how well the jobs were being handled or executed by various contractors handling the projects. It is part of the oversight functions of members of the House of Representatives on Environment and Habitat.

At first, the lawmakers led by the chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Environment and Habitat, Hon. Obinna Chidoka representing Idemili North and South Federal Constituency in the company of member representing Aba North and South Federal Constituency, Hon. Ossy Prestige and other members of the committee paid a courtesy visit on the Governor Okezie Victor Ikpeazu where they intimated him on their mission in the state.

Speaking at the Government House, Umuahia, the state capital shortly after the arrival of the lawmakers, Governor Ikpeazu decried the menace of gully erosion in the state and Southeast in general, even as he appealed to the Federal Government to come to the aid of the state and indeed the Southeast in tackling challenges of gully erosion that is ravaging the zone.

On the state of federal roads in the state, the governor noted that there was the need to declare state of emergency on them because of their deplorable state.

“As at today, Aba-Owerri Road is the only entry and exit route into Abia and other states around. Both Port Harcourt and Ikot Ekpene roads are completely closed to vehicular traffic. This has made it difficult to come to Abia State from Akwa Ibom and Rivers State through Ikot Ekpene, Opobo and Port Harcourt road.

“We want the Federal Government to declare state of emergency on the federal roads in Abia. I therefore urge the members of the House of Representatives to help make a very strong case for federal roads reconstruction in Abia State.

“As a government, we have also applied to the Federal Government to allow us reconstruct some of the roads in order to facilitate trade and commerce which Aba has comparative advantage. Even when we have not received reimbursement for previous works done”, he stated.

Speaking after inspecting the erosion sites at Aba South Local Government Area, Hon. Chidoka told reporters that they were in the state as part of their oversight functions to know how well contractors at various erosion sites have been able to use the monies approved by the National Assembly for the execution of such projects and to ascertain the quality of jobs that are being executed at the erosion sites, especially now
that the country is facing economic recession.

On how the contractor handling Akpu, Pepple and Aguwa erosion sites have been able to utilise the funds for the projects, Chidoka said: “We couldn’t quite ascertain what is on ground because we don’t know how it was before and we don’t know what it is after. Maybe, if the work goes to the second phase, I can now know how to rate the work. But from
what they have described, I think that they have properly done the work.”

While submitting reports of their visit to the state, Chidoka assured that the committee would push for the release of funds for the asphalting of the area to avoid the soil surface from washing off. He further stressed that “if the already recovered gully sites weren’t asphalted, chances are that the soil surface will wash off and funds spent on the project
becomes wasted.
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