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Umuna Erosion Project: Why Gov. Uzodinma May Not Deliver

By NWADIKE

I have no doubt that my thoughts here would continue to pitch me against some Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) in my Community who have been ill-toned to believe that I am against the “achievements” of their “political party”.

I have also no doubt that I might be the only one who doesn’t believe in the ongoing dance-show by the Imo Government in my community in the name of moving the flood that has ravaged my community the past fifty years or more.

Some quick judges will even term me an “ingrate”, others will, as usual, tag this thought an “opposition” or “political” write-up from a “self-opinionated” writer. Some may begin to tutor me to be first grateful for a half before expecting more. But none can deny me of my genuine love for my communities of Umuna and Uzoubi-Umuna. We have suffered enough because of this erosion on our land, yet have remained a proud nation of proud people with proud political pursuit.

Whatever, and however, this is not to condemn the efforts of the State’s government in attempting something like others in the past had done, but to actually inform the governor that his moves can only move most of us when and when only, he sustains and delivers in taking away this flood from our land as commenced.

For the benefits of clarifications, the Umuna Erosion problem has been there since I came of intelligence age. Most homes in the urban Community had been destroyed and the entire village misplaced. Billions of Naira had been lost and millions have continued to be lost annually.

The Uzoubi-Umuna Autonomous Community side of the Umuna nation has remained the worst hit as the people of the area have continued to lose their lives, farmlands, houses, livestock and properties annually. It is even regrettable that the Palace of His Royal Highness, Eze B.C Okereke, the Ubi of Uzoubi-Umuna has been badly affected by the flood.

So when in the 90s under the Military administration of Air Comdr. Alison Madueke, that the government brought in a major construction company known as Techno Transfer Company (TTC) to commence work on the flooding issue, our people at Umuna were filled with joy and we freely allowed the use of our land without demands.

The company initiated what anyone could see was a well-designed approach to controlling that flood. A collection center was designed and commenced at the Umusasa axis with a tunnel to move through the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church where we today have a Roundabout; affecting some houses in the Umuna axis and through Umuire village of Orlu autonomous community, and to offload into Orashi river behind the Bishop Shanahan College (BSC).

It was a massive project and TTC brought in gigantic equipment and commenced works. Hundreds of tons of cement were wasted casting millions of well-networked rods and iron sheets, both at the collection centre and the tunnels.

Then suddenly, the job was abandoned under a controversial circumstance. To date, nobody has been able to tell us what happened to warrant the suspension of that beautiful project. All we have been told from some quarters is that the Orlu Community refused to allow the flood to pass through their land. Some said the Government requested some bribes from the company and they refused. All these trash that can only be told to fools because they lack substances.

Less than two years after, the entire earthworks on the mapped out areas had been filled up and the flood situation had turned worse.

At the return of democratic rule in 1999, a feeble, but the theoretical attempt was made to revisit that project by the then Udenwa’s administration but nothing came out of it. Gov. Udenwa simply skipped “controversies” around it and gave us the International Market and the Teaching Hospital.

Under the Ohakim’s single term administration, the then ministry of works revisited the files to that project and decided not to go there. Ohakim at his campaign for the second term visited and promised to tackle it in his second term which he never saw.

When Gov. Rochas Okorocha came in 2011, he quickly jumped into the Community and started digging up tons of rubbish without a single feasibility study of the project. When at last he realized that he started without planning, he smartly engaged most of the so-called “owners of the land” and constituted them into committee. That Committee continued to meet in Owerri over bottles of table water until Okorocha left office. In the end, the Umuna Erosion remained the worst off, and we lost more of our land. Okorocha jumped in and jumped out.

When Gov. Emeka Ihedioha came on board in 2019, he only approved a palliative job on the failed section of the Amaigbo-Ihiala road for the Christmas celebration without going into any job on the Umuna Erosion.

His government was however cut short and we did not come to know his plans for the long-abandoned project.

So when Gov. Uzodinma came, and like Rochas Okorocha jumped into the project without any feasibility study or planning, it became natural that I should tag him as unserious in handling that job. It’s also evident that he does not understand the magnanimity of what he has just entered under a rainy season.

The Umuna Erosion site has close to twenty homes and families that must be displaced and compensated on the other side of the Orlu autonomous community before the project could be achieved. Has this been done before the entrance of the present equipment(less) company now on the ground?

Initial works on the Umuna Erosion control by TTC started big and half of the job were buried under the earth, what is the new design being currently adopted by the new company handling the project; and if the former, when was or did Engineers meet for assessment of damages and structures? Could they have done this without the Community involved?

What is the compensation plan for possible victims of demolitions and what is the report of the committee set up by Okorocha as an inter-Community liaison?

Finally, what is the State’s budgetary allocation for this project as I am not aware that the 2020 budget of the Imo State’s Government does have a fiscal provision for the Umuna Erosion control project?

Maybe experiences of the past have turned me into a skeptic, but I am not thrilled with the fact that my Community has been turned to object of political abracadabra by successive governors of the state.

Although the Umuna Clan Development Assembly (UCDA) had sent out appreciations to the Imo Governor, Sen. Hope Uzodinma for his attempts to revisit that project, I am however of the strongest opinion that it’s very early and there is nothing so far to convince most of us that the governor would deliver in driving away that flood in Umuna with the present unplanned approach.

While I do not want to sound pessimistic, I see this job once again being abandoned by Gov. Uzodinma and the excavations so far carried out and heaped on our roads allowed to fill up again without the tunnel taken to its final destination. I see once again the use of the brain of Umuna people because failing to plan is planning to fail.

I will seriously advocate that the governor takes his time; keeping politics aside, and ignoring pressures from “cheermen and women”, and prepare for the delivery of this project.

The Umuna Erosion control project is not just like the ordinary street floods that you can achieve with just a table approval with an officeless contractor. It will be stupid cleaning the shit yet have the odor suffocating us.

I trust the governor, if, with the will power to be able to deliver, but this job at this rainy season has posed a huge suspicion; the reason for my doubts.

I, therefore, challenge Sen. Hope Uzodinma to prove us wrong by starting properly. He doesn’t have to be in any haste to please anybody so long as he is determined to deliver. He only needs to deploy experts with proper mercenaries, including funding, equipment, personnel, and sophistication to avoid the situation I already witnessed where boys dig gutters with mere shovels.

*Nwadike GOC is from Umuna in Orlu LGA and writes from Abuja*

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