For many communities in Nigeria, road construction is a welcomed development but for the residents of Umuhu village in Okija, Anambra state, it has become a thing of sorrow – causing deaths, injuries and flooding following the gully erosion caused by the road project, which has remained abandoned for three years.
Late October 2020, Basil Madubungu, 68, a security officer at Umuhu Health Centre was returning home at 6 A.M after a night shift. As he tried to pass across a wooden bridge across the flooded Nkwo-Umuhu-Ubahezike Road. He slipped and sustained a deep cut on his right leg.
Recalling the incident, he said, “I didn’t know where the plank was anymore. A big nail underneath injured me and I have been at home since then with hundreds of thousands spent on treatment.”
Six-year-old Miracle Agbazuwe was not so lucky. She was killed in her sleep after a flashflood pulled down her home one night.
Another man, Okpara Okanumee died two days after falling as a flood overran his home in the village.
“He died last three months. It was from there (fall) he just go like that from sickness,” Chioma Okanumee, a daughter-in-law met in the family compound said.
The little child and the man are just two of the four that died in the flood in 2019, Johnson Ohaezba, the chairman of the community said.
” One morning, we saw two people that we don’t know inside flood dead and we reported to the police who came to carry them. One of them, a woman, is from Isieke village.”
Overran by flood
Mr Ohaezba further told this reporter that at least thirty buildings including the primary health centre in the community were flooded for several months in 2020.
At the primary health centre lies an eyesore. A dilapidated building with worn-out roofings, cracked and patched cement floors, damaged solar vaccination machine and non-functional borehole without pumping machine which remains a distasteful remainder of a 2016 Zonal Intervention Project (ZIP) that neither served the community nor the health facility all along with the abandoned road project. This project tagged ‘construction of twenty (20) motorized borehole in Ihiala federal constituency, Anambra state’ was nominated at the sum of N30 million and supervised by Anambra Imo River Basin Development Authority (AIRBDA).
“This hospital serves the ten communities in Umuhu. Because of the flood, people had to travel far for immunisation even pregnant women for childbirth. One of the nurses fell down while coming and dislocated her elbow on this road”.
Mrs Christiana further told the reporter that, not only the solar vaccination machine donated by the European Union but also, the hospital’s generator and several medical supplies were all destroyed by the flood.
“During this past Yellow Fever vaccination, we had to go to Ihiala for vaccines and use ice packs to preserve it. Residents don’t come here anymore because of the unfavourable environment.
“For the borehole, the contractor after pumping water from it that day left with their machine, till today we haven’t seen water run from it.”
At Mr Sylvanus Echendu compound beside the primary health, centre rugs were laid outside to dry. “Thank God for the dry season, we have started breathing the breath of relief, before you can not even enter this place,” he said.
He then proceeded to take this reporter around his 6 bedrooms and parlour apartment covered with mud, abandoned for 11 months because of flooding.
“This is my building, the other one is even better. Water that doesn’t reach here before has been entering it since early the rains started. My three TV’s, generator, cassette, foam in both buildings were all damaged. Many people left their houses and ran away. When my people return, we’ll start cleaning now it is the dry season.”
Dirty stream and gully erosion
Down Umuhu Okija, by the stream, the main economic hub of the agrarian village housing the popular Adaogbe breweries – a settlement where palm wine is tapped, processed to local gin (kai kai) and sold in nearby towns around – arable lands for cocoyam, cassava and yam cultivation, fishing and a market for buying and selling of farm produce.
All these, Mr Bernard Picolo, another resident said have halted as “nobody goes to the stream anymore” because of the bad state of the road.
En-route the village stream, this reporter was shown walls of buildings destroyed by flood, deserted houses and shops and an incomplete drainage channelling water down to the stream along the erosion torn road. A gully of several feet deep where the contractor used bulldozers to collect sand for the project was also seen.
At the village stream, Mr Peter Ike, a palm wine tapper and chairman of Adaogbe market was met just returning from his daily route tired and empty as he could not get to his trees for a fresh supply.
According to him, the stream had been blocked and polluted by mud from erosion making it difficult for canoes, many of which this reporter saw at the bank, to go in either for fishing or wine tapping.
“See the cassava all tied there in the water, but women can’t get it because of the mud in the stream. Even the market is abandoned because women said they don’t want to fall and break their legs on this road.
“All the food, fish, yam, cassava, timber and kia kia (local gin) that motor and machine come here to carry, now no road for them and even water to drink. The stream that was clean before with white sand is now dirty by mud from erosion. Until you use a canoe and enter inside, no water for you.”
When reached for comments, the construction company, Hammakopp Consortium Limited and was told the Head of Operations was away. Attempts to reach him so far have been unfruitful.
Also, the Commissioner for Works Anambra State Mr Marcel when contacted said, “We can’t discuss this on phone, I have to meet you in person but I am busy throughout this festive periods because I am always on site.”
Areas like this are usually forgotten but not during electoral campaigns. The rural area need s all-round development, else lots of people will die.
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This is really touching. Urbanization should reach villages too. These incessant deaths must stop!!!