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Anambra communities, NEWMAP tango over erosion projects

By Uzoma Nzeagwu, Awka and Oluwaseun Akingboye, Akure
18 May 2020   |   3:42 am
The Nigeria Erosion and Water Management Project (NEWMAP), Anambra Office has refuted the accusations raised by three communities in Anambra State

Anambra Erosion

Ondo Assembly probes N500million counterpart fund

The Nigeria Erosion and Water Management Project (NEWMAP), Anambra Office has refuted the accusations raised by three communities in Anambra State, alleging the embezzlement of funds meant for the gully erosion projects in their areas.

In a statement issued by the Project’s Communications Officer in Awka, Mr. Emeka Achebe, NEWMAP explained that the contract for intervention at the erosion sites in Agulu, Nanka and Oko was yet to be awarded.

Achebe who was reacting to the joint appeal made by the leaderships of the three communities to the World Bank not to abandon the project, however, assured that their demands would be given priority attention.

While expressing surprise over the allegations that the funds had been embezzled, he described the assertion as false and regrettable.

Achebe said Anambra had benefitted immensely from NEWMAP intervention in active collaboration with the state government with 14 projects either completed or ongoing as against the initial target of five at the inception of the Project in the state.

He recalled that leaderships of the Agulu, Nanka and Oko communities had written a letter to the World Bank Country Director lamenting the abandoned erosion project.

According to him, Following the letter of appeal to the Country Director of NEWMAP some time ago, the team paid visits to their communities and mobilized them to support their preliminary works including engineering design, survey, resettlement plan and environmental impact assessment.

They pleaded that the Country Director should use his good offices to urgently intervene at Agulu-Nanka-Oko without further delay to avert loss of lives and properties.

Achebe assured that the World Bank, Federal and Anambra governments will not abandon the three communities, even as he expressed concern with the people of Agulu, Nanka and Oko communities, especially their traditional rulers on the erosion menace in their communities.

He further regretted the misinformation and accusations leveled against leaderships of the three communities on the embezzlement of the funds, adding, “Neither the Anambra and Federal Governments or World Bank has awarded any contract for this site, it is impossible that contract for such a high-visibility project and scope be awarded without anyone hearing about it.

He added that the NEWMAP will escalate the appeal made by the three communities to the appropriate quarters for the quick action and advise on all their appeals.

In a related development, Ondo State House of Assembly has begun a probe into the N500million NEWMAP counterpart fund, lamenting that the people of the state have not felt its impact.

The lawmakers, at their plenary sitting last week, invited the State’s Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Igbasan and the Chairman of Ondo State Development and Investment Promotion Agency (ONDIPA), Mr. Boye Oyewunmi.

They directed ONDIPA boss, Oyewunmi, to furnish the House with documents on properties of government in Abuja and Lagos State by May 21, 2020.

They inquired from the Commissioner while the impact of the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project has not been felt by the people even when the state government had paid its counterpart funding of N500 million.

The lawmakers equally requested to know the modalities adopted for the uneven allocation of the 24 NEWMAP projects among communities in the state, especially why the delay in the execution of the projects.

The Chairman, House Committee on Environment, Success Torkhuerijo, frowned at a situation where 24 projects were slated for execution in selected communities at the expense of those facing serious ecological challenges.

Similarly, the lawmaker representing Akure South Constituency ll, Mr. Sunday Olajide, condemned the delay in the documentation for World Bank projects, which he noted delimit accruing benefits from such projects.

Olajide equally advocated that all constituencies in the state must be covered by the NEWMAP projects, adding that the relevant committee of the House must be carried along as representatives of the people.

The House, in a motion sponsored by the Chairman House Committee on Natural Resources, Tomide Akinrogunde, called the attention of the government to the plight of the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Akinrogunde outlined the importance of the Natural Resources Ministry to the economy of the state, lamenting the dwindling fortune of the sub-sector due to poor staffing and neglect.

Nonetheless, he lauded the visionary leadership of the first Executive Governor of the state, late Pa Adekunle Ajasin, for laying the foundation for a viable natural resources sub-sector of the economy.

Akinrogunde stressed the need to support the government through legislation to reposition the natural resources sub-sector in the interest of the state and the people.

To achieve this, the Committee Chairman stressed the need to checkmate encroachment into state forest reserves, procure motorcycles and operational vehicles for proper monitoring of the forest reserves.

He emphasised the need to upgrade and rehabilitate rural roads to facilitate the movement of goods from rural to urban communities.

Alongside other co-sponsors of the motion, he stressed the need to urgently address the dwindling human resource in the sub-sector by employing new hands to monitor the state forest reserves.

They added that effective monitoring of security posts must be carried out to check leakages while efforts should be geared at the regeneration of old species in the forest reserves and rural communities should be developed to check rural-urban drift.

The Speaker, Bamidele Oleyelogun, charged the Environment Commissioner to always involve the House in his ministry’s activities and ordered him to appear with the list of all earmarked project sites on Tuesday, May 26, 2020.

Oleyelogun lauded the sponsor and co-sponsors of the motions for doing a good job, stressing the need for government to urgently commence recruitment of produce and forest officers as a way to reposition the natural resources sub-sector for greater productivity.

He also stressed the need to procure motorcycles and operational vehicles to facilitate the monitoring of the state forest reserves while the renovation of forest facilities must be given urgent attention.

The Speaker maintained that a conducive operational environment must be provided to enhance effective monitoring of control posts across the state.

He added that political will must be mustered to ensure reclamation and regeneration of the state’s forest reserves through policy statements to enhance the valuable relationship among all sectors of the state economy.

While responding to the query, the Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Funso Esan, appealed to the lawmakers and assured that every constituency of the state would benefit from the World Bank projects being executed in phases.

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