analysisBy Tony Nyong, Uyo
The threat to life and natural habitat is considered serious indeed. For some communities in Akwa Ibom State, this fear of erosion menace has left them crying for help. This is because the problem has already triggered off landslides in some parts of Itak, in Ibiono Local Government Area.
The ravaging erosion, which could lead to the loss of several homes, has affected most parts of the capital city, Uyo. Areas worst hit by the devastation include Eka Street, Udoh and Brooks Streets, as well as Ewet, Anua, and Nnwaniba.
No fewer than 400 residents of the affected areas, who have already been isolated by the landslides, would require immediate evacuation if their lives would not be put into jeopardy. The situation is such that may require the Federal Government eventually declaring a state of emergency in the area and releasing money from the Ecological Fund to enable Governor Godswill Akpabio combat the scourge which precipitation between 2010 and 2011 has surpassed 400 millimetres in the affected areas.
Akwa Ibom State, otherwise known as the land of promise, is gradually becoming the land of deathtraps. This is because the rampaging erosion and the attendant consequences will make a total mess of the State's landscape if the Federal Government is tardy about deploying remedial measures to arrest the already dangerous situation which could force the people into refugee camps.
Schools, including the University of Uyo(a federal institution in the State), hospitals, including St. Theresa's Hospital, Use Abat and St. Luke's Hospital, Anua as well as streets, a building formerly housing the defunct NITEL, subway stations, walkways and residential districts in the state capital may cave-in if adequate measures are not taken on time.
Most observers believe that the only way out of the erosion menace and environmental degradation, the worst in the history of the State, is a Federal Government intervention, arguing that it is beyond the capacity of the state government to handle, the status of Akwa Ibom as an oil-producing state nothwithstanding.
Speaking with Vanguard Metro, VM, the Paramount Ruler of Uyo said the State Government has been overwhelmed by the problems of ecological disaster, despite the first-of-a-kind drainage system constructed by the Akpabio government, adding that the State was in dire need of Federal Government assistance to save the situation.
The Royal Father called on the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, to take steps to safeguard the looming disaster, even as the State continues to witness heavy down pour, since, according to him, this part of the state is particularly vulnerable to extreme erosion menace.
Eteidung Joeseph Efiong Okpon, the Chief of Uyo Village, concurs, saying that the problem of erosion has taken a big toll on his subjects, with those in Udoh Street, Akpabio Street, Eka Street and Ebong Street the worst affected. He said that with the possible exception of the Second Republic civilian government, successive governments had only paid lip service to the problem.
According to the Chief: "There is no government that has ever been serious about the problem of erosion control inUyo; because if government had been serious, by now they could have controlled the erosion. Because of the neglect, the prison walls have collapsed, some buildings around Cardinal Ekandem Seminary College also collapsed. The farmlands around the place have been completely washed off, leaving the owners of the land who depend mainly on farming as their source of livelihood stranded and in abject poverty. Now the most recent one along Brooks, where the State Government has spent millions of Naira to construct the road, is the worst in the history of Uyo people. And it is obvious it would bury the whole of that area and possibly move across that road to Udokang Street. So, we appeal to the State Government, the Federal Government and all the agencies concerned to urgently come to our help.
"Government may consider relocating us, but the most appropriate thing is to check the erosion because we would not like to go and live in another man's land; we would not like to vacate our own areas to be strangers or sojourners in another man's area. Let government release money from the Ecological Fund to check the erosion".
The Eteidung went further to say: "I know the case of some people around Imattan where the houses were completely submerged, but government has only paid deaf ears, and not even a kobo has been given to them almost five years after. There was also the case of old Stadium Road down to Udoh Street as well as the entire compound of the former Uyo Local Government Chairman, Prince Mike Ibanga, which was completely buried by erosion. He has been writing, but nobody has shown any interest in the plight of the people.
"The Federal Government sent some teams to me and I took them around, but since then, they have never come back here. And if something is not done in a very short time we would lose many more buildings. We should now even be counting the loss in billions because like in the cases of the former Local Government Chairman and the largest poultry farm with hatchery being submerged, together with all the buildings around there. There is a Church at the tail-end of Ebong Street , Mt. Zion Church, is on the verge of collapse because of the same erosion".
State govt's response
Responding to the development, the Commissioner for Environment in the State, Mr. Enobong Uwah said: "The State Government is seriously worried about the matter, and the problem being a technical matter, government cannot rush to tackle it; but we are doing something to address all erosion threats to the State".
"Government", he said, "has set up an Inter-ministerial Committee that will take a holistic look at the situation. We hope to soon clearly study the existing documentary complaints so that by the time government starts the process of verification and validation, even with fighting the erosion menace, we will make sure the whole problem is a thing of the past."
But Chief James Udofia Etuk, from Ibiaku Uruan, residing at No. 36, Asutan Street , said that for the close to forty years he has lived in the street, he was yet to witness any enuine effort by any government to tackle the menace.
According to him: "The present Eka Street was completely wipe out of existence by the menace, and lives were lost. But it was only recovered by Dr Alex Ekweme during the Shehu Shagari regime. Since after that, we had written to the then Cross River State Government, then the Attah government and that of Akpabio, yet they have not responded. They only use the erosion menace to seek for votes during their electioneering campaigns, but once they have our votes, they soon forget their promises.
"Governor Akpabio last year visited the erosion site and expressed sympathy with those whose properties were seriously affected. We all hoped he would keep to his promises when he settles down for this second term".
Farmers appeal to govt
Madam Grace Joseph David, Arit Sunday Akpan and Affiong Alexander, of Akpayak village in Uyo, Ekpri Nsukara, in Nnwaniba, and Ekamba Nsukara also in Nnwaniba, all farmers who have been cultivating the land for years for their family upkeep, told VM that sometimes they pay as much as N300,000.00, to the original owners of the land for a year to cultivate the land for their livelihood.
They appealled to the government for financial assistance to start any kind of trade in place of the planting of water leaf which has been ruined by the rampaging erosion.