Otaru of Auchi, Alhaji Aliru Momoh
Abimbola Akosile writes on the visible efforts of the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) to tackle and reduce soil erosion in South-east Nigeria through a pilot project, with focus on Edo State
In Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, gullies caused by the combined effect of water and wind erosion as well as human factors are wreaking havoc on life and property, with a heavy devastating effect on the livelihood and economy.
The severity of environmental degradation has prompted the Nigerian government to seek urgent support from the World Bank to tackle the challenge of severe erosion and its impacts in seven states of South-eastern Nigeria on a pilot basis: Abia, Anambra, Cross River, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu and Imo.
The Bank responded through the $500 million IDA-financed Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) and has mobilised a strong coalition at national and international levels to tackle and reduce soil erosion on a war footing.
The project became effective on September 16, 2013 and has received $3.96 million from the Global Environment Facility, and $4.63 million from the Special Climate Change Fund.
According to NEWMAP National Coordinator, Mr. Chikelo Nwune, the significant development objective of the project “is to reduce Vulnerability to soil erosion in targeted sub-watersheds”.
He said the innovative, multi-sectoral project has commenced the financing of State-led interventions to prevent and reverse land degradation, “initially focusing on gully erosion sites that threaten infrastructure and livelihoods in seven States: Abia, Anambra, Cross River, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu and Imo, and subsequently scaling out to other states nationwide.”
The spatial pattern of degraded lands – gullies and areas exposed to erosion and mosaic of grassland, farmland and bare surfaces – suggests they are localised to areas around the eastern escarpment and around the Awka-Orlu cuesta.
Erosion sites, gullies and mosaic of grassland and bare surfaces are extensive around the eastern escarpment which stretches from the Isiama-Ohafia axis (Abia State) through Nguzu-Eda (Ebonyi)/Okigwe (Imo) areas to Agwu, Udi and Nsukka areas in Enugu State.
The deepest and most prominent gullies are localised to areas around Umundugba-Orlu-Urualla-Aguata-Abagana-Akwa areas on the cuesta (stretching from Imo to Anambra States). This is where some of the most dreaded gullies including the Agulu-Nanka-Ekwulobia and the Urualla-Orlu-Ikwerre complexes are found. Some mosaic of grassland, farmland and bare surfaces are also found in some areas around the northwest of Edo State (around Auchi).
Nwune noted that NEWMAP entry into Edo state has been made more manifest with the proposed intervention in three prominent project sites: Oshiobhugie Plain Erosion Site, Auchi in Etsako West Local Government Area; Queen Ede Secondary School Road Gully Site, Benin in Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area and the reclamation of Ekehuan gully site in Egor Local Government Area.
“It was eye-opening to see the severity of damage caused by erosion,” said World Bank’s Africa Region Sector Manager for Environment in West Africa, Benoit Bosquet, who led the implementation support mission to Edo state in early 2014. “The NEWMAP project is breaking new ground by mobilising funding, technical assistance, and local expertise including community engagement to tackle the pressing environmental problems,” he added.
While conducting World Bank officials on inspection of the sites Governor Adams Oshiomole of Edo State assured residents of Queen Ede, in Ogbeson quarters, Benin City that government would do everything possible to arrest the gully erosion ravaging the area, saying the state government is in partnership with the World Bank on the problem and that government has already set aside enough fund to address the menace.
The governor commended the engineering designs for the various sites which he noted were painstakingly done to ensure lasting solution to land degradation.
Already civil works activities have commenced in two of these sites. Most especially in Queen Ede and Ekehuan while the big one, in Auchi will soon take-off as soon as the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) is concluded.
Speaking on the activities in these two sites, the Edo State NEWMAP Project Coordinator, Engr. John Adisa, noted that work has progressed appreciably. The Queen Ede gully has been sand filled and raised up appreciably. He commended the understanding and cooperation of the Communities.
According to him the state government has been very supportive. He noted that the Project in the state could not have rapidly progressed but for the commitment and efforts of the state Governor and the knowledgeable supervisory roles of the Commissioner for Petroleum and Environment, Prince Clem Agba.
He noted that the state government so far, has financially supported the Project with a sum of N800 million counterpart fund contribution, with assurances for more support as the project prepares to tackle the greatest threat to human existence and livelihood in the Oshiobhugie Plain Erosion Site of Auchi in Etsako West Local Government Area.
The project is expected to have highly positive environmental impacts: it will address erosion at selected locations beginning with sites dominated by gully complexes; it will develop and establish measures to prevent gully formation in the forms of guidelines for road and drainage design, and environmental guidelines and urban and watershed management planning; and it will restore degraded lands to productive uses and eliminate threats to water and soil quality, safety in settlements, and safe and efficient road travel.
In addition, it will support the climate change agenda in Nigeria, increasing Nigeria’s capacity to promote low-carbon, climate-resilient development. NEWMAP has been re-classified as a Category A project for environmental assessment, in view of its scale, the types of problems it addresses, the possibilities of significant adverse impacts if the interventions it supports are not correctly designed and implemented, and the challenges presented by the need to strengthen institutional capacities at federal, state and local levels, where the functions of environmental enforcement and NEWMAP implementation are closely linked.
So far, with respect to technical expertise required, the implementation of the gully control measures and civil works interventions in Edo state and Project wide has been reinforced by three consultancies at the highest standards available: a civil engineering supervision and design consultancy, an international project management consultancy, and a third-party ME consultancy whose main role will be to collect, analyse and disseminate lessons coming out of the different states during implementation.
The strategic direction of the project and all interventions is overseen by the State Steering Committee, with implementation by the State Project Management Unit (SPMU). Guidance is provided by the Federal Project Management Unit (FPMU) warehoused under the Federal Ministry of Environment.
Disbursement of Compensation
Edo State Government has begun the payment of compensation to persons affected by ongoing construction work at gully erosion sites in the State.
The exercise, which started with Auchi gully site, is in compliance with World Bank guidelines on such assisted projects which require that payment of compensation be borne by the State Government through its counterpart funds.
At a brief opening ceremony in Auchi, Adisa informed the Otaru of Auchi, Alhaji Aliru Momoh, the Project Affected Persons (PAPs) and the community that the exercise was very strategic to the successful execution of the project in the area and called for the cooperation of the community.
On his part, the Edo NEWMAP Social Livelihoods Officer, Mr. Chris Abode who noted the part played by the Otaru of Auchi in facilitating the execution of the project expressed appreciation to all stakeholders.
Abode disclosed that the compensation was being paid to a total number of 121 Project Affected Persons and not to those who had already lost their properties before now to the ravaging gully erosion in the community.
He explained that more money was being expected from the World Bank that will benefit far greater number of persons in the community than the present 121 persons that would receive compensation immediately, stressing that there was also a plan to involve other members of the community affected by the erosion through remediation programme.
The Social Livelihoods Officer asserted that the compensation exercise which was a culmination of earlier enumeration and verification processes undertaken by a World Bank consultant and officials of Edo NEWMAP, would also involve a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) to witness the operational mode of payment to beneficiaries.
He added that while some other member states in NEWMAP were still struggling to pay their counterpart fund, Edo state had not only been able to meet up with its compensation payments but was far ahead in its counterpart fund obligation.
Speaking on the occasion, Alhaji Momoh expressed gratitude to God for making the day possible and commended Governor Oshiomhole for his efforts at ensuring that those directly affected by construction work at the gully erosion site were compensated.
The monarch expressed happiness at witnessing commencement of the payment of compensation urged the beneficiaries to spend the funds wisely.
It will be recalled that Edo State Government early this year approved the payment of over N1 billion as counterpart fund for the implementation of NEWMAP intervention in gully erosion sites across the State. About N497 million is being expended on compensation in Auchi gully site as approved by the World Bank. A similar exercise has since done at the Ekehuan gully site while another exercise will be carried at the Queen Ede gully site at a later date.
The exercise was witnessed by members of Edo NEWMAP Project Management Unit and indigenes of Auchi community.