Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Oro Autonomous Community in Iberenta , Ikwuano Local Government Area of Abia State, is a major cocoa-producing community in the state.
The agrarian community with a population of about 10,000, is also among the major producers of cassava and palm oil.
But gully erosion which poses existential threat to the community has been a nightmare to the locals.
Poor access road is another big headache to the locals who now said they were overwhelmed by the twin challenges of gully erosion and deplorable road.
Worried by the menace, the people have cried out both to the Federal Government and the Abia State Government for urgent intervention.
Speaking with newsmen at a threatening erosion site in the community, the Traditional Ruler, HRH Eze Stanley Ijenwa, said many houses in the community could be washed away if no urgent actions were taken to avert the impending disaster.
The monarch said that erosion menace which began in the community for many decades, had gone beyond their control.
He said that the pathway leading to the community’s source of drinking water had been destroyed by erosion.
Similarly, the royal father lamented that two villages, Oboro and Nkalunta, including Iberenta Community Primary School had all been cut off by the menace.
Ikengaonline observed that several buildings including an old-generation pentecostal Church in the community have been put at risk following the menace of erosion.
The monarch also decried the deplorable condition of the community’s only access road which, he said, affects the evacuation of agricultural produce from the agrarian community.
Lamenting that previous efforts to draw Government attention to their plight for possible intervention were unsuccessful, the royal father, however called on Gov. Alex Otti, who he said “is not a politician,” to come to the rescue of his community.
“We have seen hell because of gully erosion, and we can no longer control it. Some Government officials have been here in the past but after visiting us never did anything.
“We are begging Gov. Alex Otti and the Federal Government to please save us from this pending disaster. We have serious ecological challenge that demands urgent intervention.”
He begged Gov. Otti not to delay intervention on the road to avoid a major disaster.
Speaking also, one of his subjects, Pascal Atuma, lamented that health workers and teachers posted to the community quickly abscond as they find it extremely difficult to cope with both challenges of erosion and bad road.
He further lamented that every effort by the community in collaboration with those in the diaspora to put the menace under check had been defied.
The filmmaker said that since he was born, he had not seen any Government give his community any sense of belonging.
He said that the community had serious water challenge following the ban on the sinking of water boreholes as such activity could trigger erosion.
“Since 51 years ago when I was born my community has been grossly neglected by Government despite being the food basket of Abia State. If you hear that Abia produces cocoa this is where it comes from. We produce cassava and palm oil in large quantities yet our road is a complete mess.
“If it rains, you can’t access here for two days. Teachers and also health personnel reject postings to my community, and it has serious implications on our people.
“On our own we have done our best with the support of our people in diaspora. We are now overwhelmed. This is ecological disaster. Government should please come to our help.
“By now many houses should have been evacuated. They should not wait for a time people are buried alive by erosion before they intervene.”
Speaking also, another member of the community, Mr Lucky Mpama, regretted that previous appeals for Government intervention, fell on deaf ears.
He said that if Government had shown any interest when the menace first reared up, it could have been put under control.
Mpama appealed to Gov. Otti who he said “is a listening Governor,” to come to the rescue of the community, describing the menace as an ecological disaster.
He regretted that Abia State Government had abandoned the people despite appeals for intervention in the past.
“NEWMAP has been here but did nothing. We know Governor Otti’s Government is not like the previous one. Let him please come quickly and save us.”
One of the women in the community, Mrs Gold Uche, said that besides erosion, poor access road had taken a toll on the rural women who are predominantly farmer.
She equally lamented that the poor access road posses health challenge to the locals who seek medical attention in Umuahia.
Motorcycle is the major means of transportation to the community as vehicle find it increasingly difficult to access the community.
Abia has over 3000 active erosion sites, with some of them posing imminent danger to locals.