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Still…Going! Going!! Going!!!

By Charles Ogugbuaja, Owerri
26 August 2015   |   11:26 pm
PRECISELY on December 4, 2014, The Guardian carried a mind-touching story with caption: “Going! Going!! Going!!!...to Landslide.” In the story residents of Nekede in Owerri complained about the activities of land excavators and expressed fears over the imminent loss of their homes.

One of the gully sites

Gullies, flooding threaten Nekede, near Owerri, Imo State 

PRECISELY on December 4, 2014, The Guardian carried a mind-touching story with caption: “Going! Going!! Going!!!…to Landslide.” In the story residents of Nekede in Owerri complained about the activities of land excavators and expressed fears over the imminent loss of their homes.

As at that time, the residents bemoaned the activities of mud sand excavators, numbering about 200 tippers on a daily basis, who allegedly cut a big tunnel that channels water from flooded areas to a river.

The tunnel was designed by the Rear Admiral Ndubusi Kanu (rtd) administration in 1976 when the state was created and executed by the late Sam Mbakwe administration (1979 – 1983).

In the same edition, The Guardian graphically disclosed how what appeared as the formation of a little hole had expanded into a heavy gully erosion from non-residential areas, stretching to residential areas laced with beautiful edifices owned by several serving and retired senior government officials.

On the other side is the Umulam village, stretching to other six villages of Nekede, Owerri West Local Council. This bisects Owerri Municipal and Owerri West Local Councils.

The publication and others from local tabloids based in Owerri, including the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), alerted the nation to the issue.

But the cries appeared to have received little attention. After the media blitz on the issue, the then Imo State Commissioner for Environment, Emma Ekwerenmadu, said a directive had been issued to the excavators to stop their action, but till today, excavation is still going on even as the state government has deployed a contractor to offer palliative measures.

The Senior Special Assistant to Governor Rochas Okorocha on Special Duties, Emma Ibediro, told The Guardian that the phenomenon was a natural disaster not caused by the excavators.

He also disclosed that the state government under Okorocha, was a people -oriented one, adding that to show concern, an alternative road was being constructed to divert transport to the Nekede villages from Owerri.

The Guardian, however, gathered that if no urgent action is taken, the entire area, including the ultra-modern multi-billion Naira Imo Concorde Hotel could be entombed and buried by the gully erosion.

Residents alerted that the erosion has stretched to the major road that links through the Municipal and Nekede villages, following the tunnel and if the calculation so far is anything to go by, the occurrence could get to the point of the Five-Star Pearl of the East – Imo Concorde Hotel, and no one can predict what could happen next.

One of the landlords of the edifices, who preferred anonymity, told The Guardian in a pathetic tone: “I now sleep with one eye opened. I don’t want to visit that site as the erosion is advancing and expanding.

When I bought that land, I was very doubtful. It is not a natural disaster. It is properly guided, following a tunnel built inside the earth during the Ndubuisi Kanu/Sam Mbakwe administration.

It was meant to channel water from New Owerri to World Bank. It was well articulated.” “This has been here since 1978, but in 2012, when the Rochas Okorocha administration began doing heavy road construction, some youths in collaboration with some construction companies that do not know about the tunnel, went and opened it up.

It started caving in gradually. He recalled: “The Guardian newspapers did a report on it in 2012. When the effect became so serious, some other local tabloids and Radio Nigeria drew the attention of authorities to the devastating effect this would cause if immediate action was not taken. This would have been arrested if the attention was adhered to.

As it stands, this thing will claim Concorde Hotel and all the edifices built at the New Owerri because most of these buildings are on top of this tunnel.” The source continued: “MCC has a map of how this tunnel was built and how to arrest devastating effect. This thing has been on for a long time.

It is a continuation and will not stop. Everyday it caves in, even when it is not raining. It moves faster during the rainy season.” “There is no victim yet because it gradually moves.

The October rain has not come. From where it stands now and by the way it is going, it will gain 50 meters. As at the time it started, it would have cost less than N2 million to rectify, but everytime only palliative measures have been employed. In 2012 when it started, the tunnel was broken, some sand excavators came to a welder to mend it.

The welder told them it would cost them N300, 000, the boys ran away and abandoned him because they did not have such money. They continued excavating,” he added.

But all the allegations were denied by Ibediro, who insisted that the erosion was caused by a natural disaster, which the state government must arrest.

He blamed those who are politicising issues to desist and support the Okorocha administration to make the state better. He said: “A lot of sand filling work has been done. It is a fight against nature.

There are things you cannot stop. Work has started immensely since.” Ibediro also appealed to the people whose illegal structures and shanties were demolished in the city of Owerri and environs to see it as part of the ways to beautify the state and carry the “Imo my Pride” project, adding that it was not a punitive measure by the Okorocha administration.