Ebonyi community in throes of landslide, seeks help

Ogwuma-Umunna community in Ebonyi state is in danger of landslide as property worth millions of naira as well as lives are at risk. AMARACHUKWU EGWUAGHA reports.

Ogwuma community is located on the hills of Afikpo-south local government area of Ebonyi state. 

Afikpo-south is made up of lower and upper Edda with upper Edda mostly situated on a hill.  

Ogwuma hill is situated along the major road leading to upper Edda and Abia state. This community on June 23, 2022 began experiencing cracks that led to a severe landslide on the side of the hill, a development that claimed the property of natives living there. Although no life was lost, it was said that a block house built to roofing level disappeared in the process. Kitchens and bathrooms of people living within the hill also got affected.

When Blueprint visited the community, it was observed that a well-built story building formed a wedge to the disaster that also blocked the major express road linking other communities of the LGA.

Natives speak

Interacting with the natives, it was discovered that there has been a similar occurrence before. Mr Anya Nnachi Anya is one of the occupants of the story building that serves as support to the landslide from expanding further into the village. He blame the company that constructed the road for not properly filing the earth which lead to the landslide.

“This thing started in 2007; that was when this road was constructed with all these retaining walls. What we saw was that it was not filled up. In 2007, there was also a landslide and the land filled up itself but some areas did not. 

“It was on Saturday night that we noticed the land slide filling back the retaining walls. Not more than four houses were removed as you can still see the blocks there. Ordinarily in Edda, we have a living room and kitchen.

So, those were kitchens; it is only those blocks you can see there that are from the building. But the building was not roofed. It was supposed to be roofed this August before the landslide.

“You see this house? It is adversely affected because we have moved all our belongings from the building. We no longer live here. We are human beings such that if we see danger, we have to run away. Right now, there are so many cracks inthe building.

“After the 2007 landslide, another one happened in 2015 on the other side. But this one is more serious than the others. This one is bigger. You can see that the other compound was affected. This one is more serious. It is just that the land is trying to refill itself. And at the end of it, you will see water springing up from the holes created by the landslide. What it means is that there is water under the valley. Our forefathers lived here and there was no record of this. 

“The only thing we know was done wrong as human beings are that after the retaining walls, they should have filled it back. NEMA officials have been here. We told them that there are drainages in other compounds and the water is falling this way. What should be done is that they should create more drainages so that in the event of a flood, it would follow the drainages.” 

Some passersby and commuters revealed that life has not been easy for the past two weeks since the incident occurred.

A teacher with Umunna Comprehensive Secondary School, Okoro John Onu said, “Since June 27 2023, we have been finding it very difficult to come to school because those of us serving here who live at Owutu, Ezietiti find it difficult to come up to Umunna because of the incident. Since that day we have been passing round through Amigbo to Nguzu and down to Umunna. 

It is costing us a lot. Before the incident, I spend 400 naira to and fro, but now, I spend up to 800 naira to get to school. My prayer is that God would touch the heart of government to come to our aid by clearing the way to ease our movement.

Also, Chukwu Johnson a cyclist and a native of Ekoli-Edda noted, “This incident has been a problem for us for up to two weeks now. Pedestrians find it difficult to pass the road, not to talk of motorcycles and vehicles. It has been affecting my daily income because we no longer see passengers carry. It has been a problem for my family and other people. It made us to increase the fare. Before we used to convey passengers for 100 naira, now is 200 naira. We doubled the fare because of the bad road. I was making up to 3,000 naira but now, I find it difficult to realise 1,500 naira per day.

Traditional ruler speaks

While interacting with the traditional ruler of Umunna autonomous community, HRH Dickson Oboh Okorie, he emphasised that he has drawn the attention of the state government to the incident through the LGA chairman, state assembly member and others.

“Two weeks ago after a heavy downpour, we had a heavy erosion. We called it an earthquake. But when the educated ones came and visited me, they said it is a landslide. 

“What pained us most is that one house from there was submerged. Also, all the economic trees and economy of many communities were adversely affected. 

“What we did was to call the local government area chairman for government intervention. This is the third times we are experiencing this in this community with enormous damage. You can see how both up and downsides of the valley were affected. The landslide has blocked the road. There is no movement in that area again. I had to trek from the village as I was coming for this meeting.”  

Similarly, the town union president of Umunna autonomous community, Onuoha Ama said, “It has affected my community and other passersby. There is no road there since the incident occurred. As we are attending this meeting, we had to cross that place with our legs to the other side before we got a bike. We have told the House of Assembly members and the local government area chairman about the incident.

“So many things were affected. That road has been avoided now. Now, if you are going to Abakaliki, it is either you trek or go through another community. Two buildings were destroyed, one was washed away while the other one had its foundation destroyed. 

“People living in the few buildings that were affected have vacated the place. More than 20 persons of different families were sacked from the affected area. 

“A similar incident happened in 2008. If you pass through the place, you would see the water-retaining walls that were built at that time. That was when the incumbent government came to our rescue. 

On his part, Dr Mike Okoro,  the president of Edda People’s Forum while speaking on the occurrences said, “Some things are of course more than the efforts of stakeholders. The incident that happened there is what the government has to address. Not that we are abandoning everything to the government. There are areas we have done one or two things as individual and collective stakeholders. You have been to that place and you have seen the enormity of the damage. It would take the government and an individual that has the wherewithal to clear the rubbish there.” 

However, on the part of Edda people, we have done the first thing we are supposed to do and that is to call the attention of the government through the local government area chairman. 

He has also taken the report to the governor of the state.  I also recognise the efforts of the people as a result of the blockage of the road. I can assure you because I made inquiries yesterday and I was reliably informed that from next week, the government would start carting away all those sands that blocked the road. 

“This is not the first time we are having that type of issue from that particular point. It is the terrain. The terrain also has to do with the topography of our land, mostly in Edda, especially on that side.

“I was told that one house has already collapsed and others are being threatened. It is the government that would use its power to salvage the situation by pulling down the needed structure to save another”.

Gov’t intervention

When contacted on phone, chairman of the local government area, Eni Udima Chima, said government is making efforts to clear the road to avail natives easy passage to carry out their daily activities.

Nkemka Okoro Onuma, member representing Afikpo South-west constituency in the state House of Assembly said, “I had rushed down to that territory because the incident affected a family friend’s house. I noticed that a section of the land perpendicular to the slope of the village land towards Iyere road had collapsed. It stands about 5 to 6 feet trench and over 200 feet long. I have made efforts to bring the attention of the state government to that incident through matters of urgent importance brought to the floor during its sitting last week. Subsequently, I took a team of 11 geologists to the area; I’m yet to get the result of their findings.” 

Blueprint Whatsapp