Awka — There are fresh fears for the safety of the homes of some residents of Oko community in Orumba North Local Government Area, Anambra State, including the home of the former Nigerian Vice President, Alex Ekwueme.
This is because Rhino Construction Services, the company handling the gully erosion project at Nanka and Oko communities where large portion of land has been washed away by erosion, has decided to pull out of the project.
THISDAY gathered that the ancestral home of the former vice president which has been on the danger list for two years has finally been chopped off by the gully erosion as a result of the rains, and may cave in anytime.
THISDAY learnt that residents of both Oko and Nanka communities have decried their fate as the company sets to pull out of the site.
A staff of Rhino Construction Services, who spoke to THISDAY on condition of anonymity, said the company was moving out after the completion of the first phase of the job to tame the erosion and has waited for over a year for the commencement of the second phase of the job.
"We completed this project since June last year, and we have even done extra work hoping that the federal government will approve the commencement of the second phase of the job, but from what we gathered, the Anambra State Government has written to the federal government asking them to hands off the job as the World Bank was taking over.
"What we have done in this first phase of the job can sustain this project for another 10 years, but the federal government needs to approve palliative works on the project for it to last that long. This is because we all know that the World Bank will not commence work on the site immediately.
"Procurement process for projects takes years, and even in the state, there are some other projects that the World Bank is handling that has lasted years without being awarded, and it would not by-pass those ones to award this one," he stated.
The source said the period that would be spent for the commencement of the World Bank contract would hamper the work already done on the project if palliative work was not done on it. He said it would be useless for government to leave the N2billion project to collapse because of lack of palliative that won't cost much.
He said: "It was specified in the contract paper that the job would come in phases, but we have only done the phase one, and since then, we have waited to be mobilised for the second phase and that is not forth coming, so we have to move our equipment out."
Some residents of the community who spoke to THISDAY expressed sadness on the refusal of the government to commence the second phase, and even said it would be more catastrophic for Nanka and Oko communities if the construction company leaves.
Former member of the House of Representatives and erstwhile aide of Ekwueme, Chief Handel Okoli, who spoke to THISDAY said the decision by the company to leave would simply throw the two communities into further troubles.
Okoli said: "If not for the work the company has done so far, more houses would have collapsed into the gully. Ekwueme has tried his best to reach out to President Muhammadu Buhari on the erosion threat on his home, he has even paid a visit and written several letters, all to no avail."
He said further: "I want to say that if government allows Rhino to leave the site without any palliative work, it will wash away the work so far done, which cost government N2billion already. Again, I do not think it is wise for Anambra State Government to have demanded the World Bank to take over the project because we all know how long procurement process takes in their work.
"This site you see is the most radical erosion site in Africa, and so many lives have been lost to it already, same for houses. You can see the size of Oko and Nanka communities that has been lost to the gully, and we want to beg the federal government to continue with the second phase instead of handing it to the World Bank."