Edo, World Bank in N7.8b Auchi, Benin gully erosion project
AMID the devastation in some communities due to unsustainable land use practices that removed protective vegetation cover, improper road designs, inadequate drainage systems and climate change challenges, officials from Edo State government last week moved frantically to avert a looming environment disaster in three sites.
The efforts are coming as the state officials again raised an alarm over 110 gully erosion sites discovered across the three senatorial districts of Edo State, with the worst being those in Warrake and parts of Auchi in Edo North Senatorial District, Queen Ede Area and Ekheuan Road of Benin City the state capital, Ewu, Iruekpen in Edo central and several other parts of the state.
The fresh initiative, backed by the World Bank through a N7.8 billion facility is expected to check erosion in the most devastating and densely populated areas in Auchi, Queen Ede and Ekheuan Road. Experts say not less than N40 billion is needed to control the erosion menace in the state.
In Auchi, for instance, what started, as normal erosion after the rains years ago had become a very deep gully measuring 100 metres in depth across a 10-kilometre stretch. The Queen Ede area, Ogbesan quarters along Agbor road in Benin is another big gully that has claimed several homes, businesses and lives. The gully, which is over 100 metres deep in some sections have also swallowed the old Agbor road. In fact, a catholic church in the area had spent over N20 million just to keep its church standing.
The Ekheuan gully, located in Asoro area started as a result of the side drains and the diversion of all run offs from the slope running through from Agbonmwonba through the Ekheuan campus of the University of Benin into the gully. And currently, the gully receives storm water from the Oguola, Ogida, Oliha catchment flows across the road.
Recently, the state government formally flagged-off the gully erosion projects in Auchi, Benin and Ekheuan Road. In Auchi, accompanied by the Otaru of Auchi who in 2006 led a street protest to drive home the agitation of his subjects on the erosion menace, the state governor, Adams Oshiomhole said N5.7 billion sourced from the World Bank would be used to check the Auchi gully erosion.
“I want to congratulate you for witnessing this historic intervention which will change the fortune of this great kingdom and all those who reside in this kingdom. When men or women who are enthroned into office by God conduct themselves under the guidance of God and ensure that justice and fairness rule, then the people will rejoice because they will witness development.
“We want to appreciate the World Bank for the trust and confidence, but even for not just throwing money at us but for having the passion and commitment to visit and see for themselves the nature of the erosion challenges and what we are trying to do”, Oshiomhole said.
The National Project Director, Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Programme (NEWMAP), Mr. Chikelo Nwune said: “The terrain of Auchi area is something we cannot change. We have done the design and the people who have the expertise and the skills are going to translate it and you will see the drain that will convey the runoff water into the water bodies. Beyond that, the natural environment will be tampered with, some houses will go, but thank God the resources are there to create some compensation.”
The Team Leader, Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP), World Bank Office in Nigeria, Dr Amos Abu said the intervention was not a promissory note but that “the money is available and it is already working” because he said the state government had already paid the first part of its contribution to the facility amounting to N400 million.
“The contract processes have been completed and as you all know, the World Bank contract process is very rigorous, transparent and open. We did not receive any interference complaints from government quarters, that is why the most evaluated contractor is the one handling the project. This is not business as usual, you are going to see results and also see your money working for you.
Earlier, Head of World Bank assisted State Employment and Experience For Results (SEEFOR) in the state, Taiwo Akerele commended the state government for exploring the opportunities available for the project and paying its counterpart funding to all World Bank related projects in the state.