By Our Reporter
The incidence of gully erosion ravaging Onitsha, the commercial hub of Anambra state which began last year has assumed alarming proportion thereby gaining national recognition as an ecological disaster.
Thus, no life has been lost so far, but the menace has been responsible for the loss of about 20 houses and over 1000 persons rendered homeless. The destruction of farms on which some of them depend for survival was not left out.
The massive erosion site at Obeleagu Street and Nkisi-Aroli Street in Onitsha Inland town has raised tension among the inhabitants of the community and required immediate government attention to checkmate it.
Already destroyed completely are two churches, a school, shops and residential buildings with property worth billions of naira. Many residents of the area now beg for God’s help as rain has set in. The fear of whose turns is giving them sleepless nights as, “things has fallen apart and the centre can no longer hold” and more buildings may soon cave in.
The residents of the affected area living in confusion and helplessness were daily praying and begging for immediate intervention of both Federal and state governments.
Our reporter who visited the site, gathered that the disaster was caused by a drainage channel connected to Nkisi River, which have turned into a gully erosion.
It was also gathered, that the menace began in September last year after a heavy downpour when a-three-storey building constructed close to the gully at Nkisi-Aroli Street, suddenly collapsed and after then the erosion keep expanding till day.
More buildings were pulled down after few days rain recently and the situation getting worst by the day, making the affected people to vacate the area with their belongings in anguish as there had yet to be any intervention to remedy the situation either by the state or federal governments.
Consequently, the local people have been employing indigenous management while awaiting for federal and state governments urgent rescue mission to stop further destruction of their hard earned wealth being ravaged by the menace.
The President-General of Onitsha Improvement Union (OIU), Sir Chike Ekweogwu expressed the community’s fears and appealed for the government immediate intervention to save the ancient city from the ugly erosion.
He affirmed that the community had communicated the happenings to the appropriate authorities both at the state and federal government levels and awaiting for urgent attention.
According to him, the Minister of State for Environment, Chief Sharon Ikeazor as well as officials of Anambra state government had visited the site with promises to help solve the situation, but had yet to do so.
“We appeal that their talks after these visits be backed by actions because the people are suffering. If you go there now, people are evacuating their belongings and vacating their age long homes. We are lucky no life have been lost.
He said the erosion started last year, noting that before then no building had fallen at Obeleagu Street or Nkisi-Aroli Street.
“That was the first time it happened, subsequently, other buildings in the area followed.
“I felt bad because most of the house owners are retirees from active service to their fatherland and the aged people who cannot afford building new ones now. Cost of the destroyed buildings are structures with state of the art edifice therein,” Ekweogwu said.
Some of the victims with tears and loss of hopes expressed sorrowfully that the erosion havoc had rendered them homeless and beggarly.
Mr Joe Nweke, 65 years old, a tenant popularly called “Papa Ejima” who had lived in the area for 35 years and in one of the new affected building, said he had lost every hope and voice on the next line of action.
“What I saw and experienced here is frightening, where do I go from here. No home again. We are many and who we turn to now.
“We are begging for government assistance because we don’t where and who to run to except them,” he said.
Mr Lawrence Edozie, 78 years and retiree with five children, who recently completed a bungalow building near the gully with his retirement entitlements was bitting his fingers lamenting.
“What I am seeing today here is like film in a cinema. I don’t know how else to describe it, where will I run to?
“What started last year like a child play has turned into a monster today. You can see that our neighbours here have packed and moved, look over there the two-storey building you are seeing everything have been removed and evacuated by the owner.
“My joy to build and enjoy a good abode after retirement have been caught short,” he said.
Ezennia Anyaorah, a landlord and supervising engineer on the palliative job to reduce deversitating gully effect was visibily worried.
“We are trying to reinforce the drainage because when it rained, the drainage channel got broken and it is causing these damages you are seeing here.
“It started, we cried to government and no response since last year. The rain some days ago further caused what you are seeing now. We have been doing the much we can, but that was a scratch on the surface.
“This is just to hold the drainage not to break again and we still waiting for government immediate attention,” he said.