Residents of Isiukwuato, a major food-producing community in Abia State, are worried that soil erosion is wiping away their farmlands and may soon trigger food shortage in the state. They need urgent help from the state and federal government, reports SUNNY NWANKWO
The people of Isiukwuato, Abia State, have called on the state and federal governments to come to their rescue as the impact of erosion menace in their local government is threatening everything.
They fear that if nothing urgent is done to ameliorate the suffering of the people, the erosion which they said has done a lot of damage to their farmlands, costing them unquantifiable amounts of cash crops, would not only bring famine in the community, but the state at large. This is because many people from other parts of the state come to their community to buy agro produce which they take to the urban areas in the state.
According to findings by our correspondent, the Isiukwuato erosion menace has lingered for a very long time as successive administrations did not address it.
It was gathered that though the administration of former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu tried to draw the attention of the federal government to the erosion menace, the seeming disagreement between Kalu and then President Olusegun Obasanjo hindered the effort. It was alleged that the federal government “intentionally” kept mum over the plight of the people of Isiukwuato.
Some respondents interviewed by our reporter including Mr. Fidelis Ogbonna and Mrs. Charity Gilbert said that the situation wouldn’t have been what it is today if the federal government had come to the aid of the local government when the situation had not gone out of hand.
According to them, the people rejoiced sometime during President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s regime when they sighted the presence of a construction company on the erosion site, but their joy was short-lived as the construction company suddenly went into oblivion.
In a chat, information commissioner, Chief John Okiyi said, “This administration and others before it have repeatedly drawn the attention of the federal government to the bad state of the road and the threat posed to commuters, farmers and others by the ever expanding gully erosion, in the hope that the relevant agencies of the federal government will intervene to save our people from the trauma they face daily while using the road.
“It is important to note that the scope of work required to fix that key stretch of road that connects our people to neighboring Imo and Ebonyi States, requires resources far above what the state government can muster currently.
“We therefore call on relevant agencies of the federal government, including NDDC, Ministries of Environment and Works to immediately come to our rescue by performing their constitutional duty of care to the hardworking and peace loving people of Isuikwuato and Abia State through the declaration of the area and others in the state similarly threatened as ecological disaster zones requiring urgent critical intervention.
“As a responsible government, we have made interventions to arrest the negative effects of rampaging gully erosions at Imenyi in Bende LGA, Abiriba roundabout in Ohafia LGA and Umuda Isingwu in Umuahia North LGA.
“We are willing to work with the federal government and contribute in whatever way possible to tackle the challenge of gully erosion at Isuikwuato as well as other threats at Agu Eze Amaogudu Abiriba etc.
“The state ministry of works is currently executing 3 road projects at Isuikwuato; Eluama Amilo Acha and Amino Otamkpa, Ovim-Acha and Ogboro-Amibo Acha roads, which are at various stages of completion.
“Governor Ikpeazu has directed that an inter-ministerial committee, including works and environment, visit the area to assess what can be done by the state to ameliorate the problem posed by the rampaging gully.
“We wish to call on other well-meaning Abians with cords to the federal government to consider the dangers posed to the common people of the area by this natural disaster and lend their voices to the call for an immediate intervention rather than the political point some desperately seek to make.
“While we continue to work hard to fix as many key roads as possible within the state, we have never laid claims to fixing all the roads requiring attention in the state within the past 3 years. Yet it is undeniable that we have completed work on 67 roads and are working at more than 94 other road project sites across the state.
“As our resource base expectedly improve, we will certainly do much more while also ensuring that we meet other needs of our people who have continued to support the Ikpeazu administration through various means.”
However, following the directive of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu dispatching an inter-ministerial team to urgently visit the site of the gully erosion along Isuikwuato-Okigwe federal road, the state Ministry of Environment is set to commence remediation work at the site this weekend.
This was revealed by the State Commissioner for Environment, Dr Aham Uko, in an interview with newsmen this evening in Umuahia.
He said, “Our team of engineers has conducted a thorough evaluation of the Isuikwuato site today and we hope to commence the remediation this weekend”.
Confirming the governor’s directives, when contacted, Okiyi expressed appreciation to the Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, for his prompt response to the situation along the federal road that links Abia State to Imo and Ebonyi States.
In his words: “This administration is demonstrably focused on responding to the needs of the people of the state who graciously elected Dr Ikpeazu as their Governor and have supported him strongly. While we recognise that the primary responsibility of arresting the gully erosion is constitutionally that of the federal government, the state is ready to intervene to ensure that our people find safe passage way pending when help will come from relevant federal agencies.
“During the last Niger Delta Council held in the State, we took officials of the federal ministry of Niger Delta to that site and pleaded for urgent intervention to save the road from total collapse. Sadly, the gully has progressed very fast and we now have a situation where vehicles cannot pass through that road.
“As a responsible government, we cannot fold our hands and watch our people suffer while waiting for help from Abuja. We are set to undertake palliative work to remedy the situation while still pleading with the federal government to come to our aid by declaring that area and others threatened by rampaging gully erosion as ecological disaster zones with a view to deploying the resources of the country to deliver a permanent solution to the erosion menace at Isuikwuato and other locations in the state,” he concluded.