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World Bank reacts as Cross River community complains against shoddy erosion project

By Anietie Akpan, Calabar
12 September 2022   |   2:37 am
Cross River community has protested against the perceived poor quality of work done as World Bank ends its multibillion-naira erosion control projects in 19 states of the country.

World Bank. PHOTO: Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images

Cross River community has protested against the perceived poor quality of work done as World Bank ends its multibillion-naira erosion control projects in 19 states of the country.

The bank had, in an effort to check Erosion in the country, carried out projects in Cross River and 18 other states in Nigeria under the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP). It was aimed at addressing the gully erosion crisis in the Southeastern region of the country and land degradation in the Northern part, monitored by the Federal Ministry of Environment.

The project, which started in 2014, came to an end on June 30, 2022, and it captured seven states: Abia, Anambra, Cross River, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu and Imo as the first mover states later in 2016 its activities spread to 12 states of Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Borno Delta, Gombe, Kano, Katsina, and Kogi. Others are ‎Nasarawa, Oyo, Plateau and Sokoto, bringing the total to 19 states.

According to reports, over $508 million investment from World Bank was involved with counterpart funding from the Federal Government and the participating states.

In Cross River, the projects captured Edim Otop, Ikot Ekpo, Ikot Nkebre, Ikot Awatim, Ikot Uduak, Ikot Effanga, Nyagasang, Atakpa, Lemna/Federal Agriculture and few others.

However, the project in Ikot Nkebre has come under serious criticism from the community as residents of lower Ikot Nkebre, in a letter signed by Mr Otoabasi Uwatt, Mr. Alex Atem, Mr. Joseph Orok and three others and sent to the Grievance Response Squad (GRS) of World Bank in New York, commended the bank for the intervention project but observed that the project must have been “contracted to a company without capacity or has been done outside the approved project design, as critical portions keep failing with every downpour.

“Major exit roads from lower Ikot Nkebre have been cut off and welfare benefits otherwise meant for the community like water harvesting tanks, solar light, and family support packages, among others, as seen in other areas where similar intervention works have been carried out in the state has been n denied us,” the letter added.

They wondered “why the portion between fingers three and four, which has been caving in for about three months now, and about to submerge a bungalow, has not been attended to and why critical portions of the work already done keep failing with every heavy rainfall?”

They called on World Bank “to please send experts void of your Nigerian component, to come along with your approved design for the project to see for themselves, if the work so far completed meets the World Bank standards. The community is afraid that should the contractor pull out after its one-year retainer, a multi-dimensional gully, worse than the one that was remedied might occur if a thorough reclamation work is not carried out.”

However, the World Bank, in a letter dated September 6, 2022, responding to the issues raised by the community, shared its task team’s update on the project post closure, works done, and next steps.

On post closure arrangement, it said the bank closed the project after visiting the sites and receiving completion of works records for entire sites, including the works done in Ikot community road and “as part of this post-closure activity the government and NEWMAP agreed to cover at their own costs any works outside the project scope but still needed to avoid risks of erosion of community land and informed the community of this plan.”

On complaints about access roads, the bank said: “The contractor had done some work on roads within the community, including the areas the complainants are complaining about. And on the protection of potential damages to properties, the bank said: “Some of project affected persons confirmed to the Special Projects Monitoring Unit (SPMU) that they have now returned to live in their houses.

It added: “The SPMU set up a desk in the project office situated within the community with a scheduling officer, whose responsibilities, amongst others, included the display of the design and offering detailed explanations about the designs to community members, who are interested. In addition, the supervision firm has and will do the work according to official design, which was also provided to the community.”