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Feature: Ekwueme Gully Threat: Not yet Uhuru despite NEWMAP intervention

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Feature: Ekwueme Gully threat: Not yet Uhuru despite NEWMAP intervention

By Chimezie Anaso, Nigeria News Agency

The Ekwueme Square area in Awka, Anambra, is a strategic area due to concentration of public buildings and institutions that are sited around the vicinity which is at the heart of the capital city.

A drive into the area from the Enugu-Onitsha expressway leads one to the three arms zone where you have the moribund Anambra Government House project, Anambra House of Assembly and the State High Court.

Other public buildings around the vicinity are the magnificent Federal High Court with Judges quarters, Federal Secretariat still under construction, the Ekwueme Square itself, the massive Anambra Secretariat not far away as well as a three-star hotel and private houses.

This area which has a high number of strategic public buildings and infrastructure has been hit by massive gully erosion, popularly known as the “Ekwueme Gully Erosion” that requires huge resources to reverse the trend.

The erosion which assumed a scary dimension about three years ago and threatened to wash way the Federal High Court and its appurtenances, including the judges’ quarters roads leading to it.

Already, the perimeter fence, the generator house and the access road to the court have caved into the deep, while power supply to the court was cut off for a long time because the transformer serving the facility had to be moved away to save it from the menacing gully.

On the economic aspect, the erosion has destroyed the large expanse of land in the area which some families were using to farm as a means of subsistence, thus forcing them to seek alternative means of survival.

Describing the extent of damage and danger posed by the gully erosion, Mrs Blessing Egbuche, a staff of the Federal High Court, said they no longer feel safe working in the court.

Egbuche said electricity and water supplies were no longer available as they could no longer use the borehole and the transformer had been dismantled.

“There is no light in the complex, maybe there is electricity supply but our transformer has been disconnected because erosion was swallowing it and we had to call Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) to come and remove it.

“The borehole has collapsed, our 20,000 capacity water tank is there but we have emptied it to prevent it from going down into the gully soon, the building is at the risk of collapse,’’ she said.

Mr Emeka Achebe, Head of Communications, Nigeria Erosion Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) in Anambra, while speaking on the severity of the danger in the area, said the World Bank Technical Team had visited the site and appreciated the need to urgently save the situation.

Achebe said a special intervention plan known as “Gully Rapid Action and Slope Stabilisation (GRASS)” has been approved, adding that this will control damage to houses and critical infrastructure in the area.

True to his assurances, respite, however, came to the area when (NEWMAP) commenced intervention works to rescue the endangered property in the area about October 2018.

The intervention work involved massive reclamation of the gully area through importation of laterite and compaction with careful channelisation of storm water in a number of drains.

At the moment, the Federal High Court seems to be relatively safe as the approaching gully had been pushed back considerably with storm water flow well diverted away from it.

An Engineer in the company handling the project, IDC Construction Ltd who wished to be identified simply as Zubi, had told journalists earlier this year that the project had reached 80 per cent completion from what was in their design.

Zubi, however, said danger was not fully averted until the entire control work is completed as the topography of the site was so precarious that if not properly managed, erosion from the coming rainy season might wash off all that had been achieved.

According to Zubi, who is also the site manager of the project when it rains, this place is like river because this is about the lowest points in Awka, so, runoff water from all over Awka converge here, that is why the erosion here is so much.

“If it rains for 30 minutes, water will run here for three hours, very speedily and strongly. When the rainy season comes it will take all these buildings, they are not saved yet,” he said.

A staff of the Federal High Court who wished not to be name expressed delight that the complex had been saved from the imminent disaster and that they could now work with some form of comfort.

The source, however, expressed worries that there had been no activity on the site since May, fearing that the company handling the project might have vacated the site.

But a Correspondent of the Nigeria News Agency who visited the site, discovered that some caterpillar were still on site but no men around to move them, confirming the inactivity at the site.

The recent rains have created new erosion challenges in the area. Already the danger has shifted to the Federal Secretariat still under construction and it requires serious rescue.

The threatening gully had swept away the drainage, broken down parts of the perimeter fencing and advancing resolutely towards the gigantic building while a number of electric poles have been pulled down.

Again, the abrupt termination of the newly constructed drains which is where the entire storm water in the area is collected, may be the beginning of a new challenge as predicted by Zubi.

We now have what could be best described as a “man made waterfall” occasioned by flood fury from high suspension drain which is fast deepening and widening the gully path to ImoAwka stream, the natural waterway where it should have been terminated.

Mr Osita Obi, a Civil Right Activist, who spoke to NAN on the Ekwueme Gully Erosion menace said the sustainability of what had been achieved could not be guaranteed if conclusive work was not done on the site.

He said the beautifully designed drain could be destroyed in the event of more torrential rainfall, adding that the huge scarce resources so far spent on the project might be another “water down the drain”.

He called on Anambra Government and NEWMAP to do the much they could and urgently to take the control works to ImoAwka River and save the massive public and private property as well as livelihood of the people in the area.

Mr Jude Offia, a social commentator, said it was still a surprise to him that the area which was still normal about three to four years ago was now an erosion ravaged area with neither motorists nor pedestrians able to move freely.

Offia who said he used to run around the area whenever he went for walkout blamed it on negligence on the part of the ministry in charge of environment which could have checked it at budding stage.

He wondered what the effort of the ministry was in managing the numerous erosion challenges in Anambra in spite of what NEWMAP was doing.

“It is now a big problem and a big project because those in charge refused to act in the early stage. Three years ago or so, I move around all this area each time I come to Ekwueme Square to walkout,” he said.

Achebe said the tenure for the initial contract was 12 months and attributed the slowdown on control works at the site to the rainy season.

He said NEWMAP appreciated the dangers which was why GRASS was activated, assuring that the contractor would return as soon as the weather was conducive for civil works to continue.

He said additional approval had been obtained for amended design that would address the new challenges. (NANFeatures).

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