The House Committee on Ecological Matters recently paid a visit on December 7, 2016 to the Nanka/Oko gully erosion to evaluate the enormity of the gully and the impending dangers to surrounding communities. The House of Representatives members were led by the Chairperson on Ecological matters, Hon. Obinna Chidoka.
The visit became necessary resulting from the renewed threats to the surrounding communities by the emerging fault-lines within the erosion gully. The fault-lines are precursors to full-blown landslides.
The United Kingdom based representative of the contract firm [Rhino Construction Nigeria Limited], Trevor Jewitt who had been charged with prophylactic work on the Nanka side of the gully following its violent eruption in 2010 – had expressed concerns over the emerging threats to the Oko side of the gully. This is because the gully shares a border with Nanka and Oko – with Oko on the other side of the gully and Nanka on the other side. The contractor recently completed stabilization work on the Nanka side of the gully – and in the course of the project work which lasted four years, it was noticed that the Oko side of the gully became active and began erupting.
During the site visit by the members of the House of Representatives Trevor Jewitt stressed that if the remediative work is not started immediately the buildings surrounding the Oko side of the gully would be lost into the gully with the start of the next rainy season. “I must impress that if this work is not started quickly then we have a big problem here. All the work would be wasted. It is not whether it will happen, it is certain it will happen” explained the representative of the contract firm who went on to explain the geological indices that show the direction of the next landslide. He pointed to the homes/houses near the edge of the gully on the Oko side as sitting on the fringes of uncertainty and danger. “We know what to do to stop the gully from advancing further into Oko community. It is a matter of funding”.
Interestingly, the buildings pointed out by Trevor Jewitt surrounding the gully on the Oko side belong to the family of the former vice president of Nigeria, Dr. Alex Ekwueme. Already, the home belonging to the grandfather of Dr. Alex Ekwueme had collapsed into the gully crater – this was made known by the Oko residents who were present at the site during the visit. The home represented the ancestral home of the Ekwueme family. The former Vice President was also present at the site to receive the House of Representatives members.
A frontline lawyer, politician and community activist, Hon. Handel Okoli who coordinated the community aspect of the site visit ensured that the delegation from Abuja entered into the gully to witness the menace firsthand. His words, “We are very convinced that until the approving Authority for the disbursement of the ecological fund visits the site, the enormity of the situation will never be appreciated.”
He continued, “The immediate problem we have now is how to get the federal government award the contract for the second phase of the erosion remedial works just to make sure that the palliative works done by the present contractor in the Nanka side is not washed away in the next rainy season. The present contractors have completed their works in Nanka and once they leave the site the entire works will collapse since financial provision has not been made to check the Oko end of the site. So we are in a dire situation and already the number of internally displaced persons is increasing in leaps and bounds.”
“This erosion site has been tagged the biggest erosion site in the entire west Africa and some say in the world. Certainly it is the biggest in the country. The Oko and Nanka peoples have seen their farm lands and entire communities washed away every rainy season. The tragedy of the situation is that the federal government is yet to take the matter as seriously as it deserves. Bureaucracy and red ‘tapism’ have all contributed to the worsening of the situation. But the worst factor militating against government action is political considerations. Allocation of Ecological funds should depend on the gravity of the situation. It should be done on a case by case basis rather on state by state as such”.
Through Hon. Handel Okoli’s effort, it marked the first time a delegation from Abuja ever visited the bottom of the gully.
Hon. Obinna Chidoka who was struck by the massiveness of the danger that awaited the homes belonging to the Vice President made a pledge “to do something as soon as he returns to Abuja”. He promised to meet with the Secretary to Government of the Federation [SGF] to impress on his of the calamity that awaits the communities in the Nanka/Oko axis. “This visit will not end up another sighting seeing visit as other visits in the past”.
Presently, the gully site measures 400meters to the home of the late Prof. Dora Akunyili in Ifite village, Nanka – and about 250meters to the federal road that leads to Senator Andy Ubah’s home in Uga. Senator Andy Ubah represents the area at the Senate.