“Few years from now, my family may be rendered homeless by gully erosion which is breaking my community in parts.
“We hold our hearts in our hands as the erosion bites close to my house at Nkwo Amaiyi in Okoko Item, Bende LGA every rainy season,” Mr Uche Emeku lamented.
Emeku is one of the thousands of Abia State residents whose houses, farmlands and schools have come under the attack of uncontrolled gully erosion in different parts of the state.
From Ogbor Hill in Aba North LGA through Umueze in Isiala Ngwa North and Ebem Ohafia, the headquarters of Ohafia LGA, to Igbere in Bende LGA and Oguduasaa in Isuikwuato LGA and many others, the story is a sad one, the erosion sites terrifying.
The plight of the affected communities appears hopeless with the erosion wreaking more havoc each rainy season.
Chief Kalu Nwoke, the Traditional Ruler of Eziukwu Community in Ohafia, whose homestead is badly cut by erosion, says: “My village is very much under siege having had some of its landmarks washed out by erosion.
“It has washed out sections of our farms, our primary and secondary schools, some of our churches and four out of the five community town halls.”
Analysts note that it is not only Abia North that is erosion devastated.
Some parts of Isiala Ngwa North in Abia Central Senatorial Zone and Aba North in Abia South Senatorial Zone, which fall within Ngwaland, are also troubled by gully erosion.
Mr Ahamefula Ngumoha, a resident of Eze Nwangwa Street in Umuola-Okpulo Community, Ogbor Hill in Aba North LGA, also has a tale of woes as regards erosion.
Ngumoha’s compound’s walls have been buried by gully erosion in a ditch of about 15 feet.
“Erosion has washed out our walls twice; as you can see, it is about to wash out our borehole and our entrance and exit gates.
“This erosion has taken part of our residential plots of land. It keeps encroaching and shrinking the size of our compound.
“Further encroachment means it will take out our gates.
“If nothing is done, that will lead us into packing out of this house which we are not ready for because of the situation of things now”.
According to a retired civil servant, Mr Nnamdi Ubani-Okeiyi, the erosion menace has caused him hypertension.
Ubani-Okeiyi, who lives near an erosion site on Eze Nwangwa Street, Aba, says he does not sleep whenever weather forecast predicts rains in Aba.
He notes that the erosion started in 2011 and that the community has written letters about it to the Federal Government and Abia Government through their representatives in Abia Assembly and National Assembly.
“Yet no one has seen enough action except the visit of the Abia Coordinator of the Nigerian Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP),” he claims.
Prof. Francis Okeke, Dean, Faculty of Environmental Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, attributes gully erosion in Abia and some other parts of South East to the soil type, topography and drainage systems in the area.
Okereke, a Professor of Geoinformatics and Surveying, also notes that humans cause erosion through failure to plan for housing development and some other activities.
This assertion makes individuals and communities affected by erosion to be apprehensive of what the future will hold, as they are living in danger of being washed off along with their buildings.
They are, therefore, restless in their search for solutions, calling on the federal, state and local governments to intervene urgently.
Eze Kalu Ukoha, the Paramount Ruler of Ebem Ohafia, which is also badly eaten by erosion, says the community has made several efforts to control the erosion but can no longer help the situation.
“The level the erosion has reached is now beyond what we can control by ourselves; our case has even gone beyond the level our local government can help us,” he argues.
Mr Kalu Nwoke, an indigene of erosion devastated Eziukwu Ohafia, says he has made documentaries to draw government attention to the menace.
“We are pleading with governments to come to our aid before you hear one day that erosion has washed us away.
“We hear about the Ecological Fund of the Federal Government for erosion interventions, I want them to remember us,” he urges.
According to Mr Izuchukwu Onwughara, Abia State Coordinator of the Nigerian Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP), there are no fewer than 279 erosion sites in the state.
Onwughara is worried that a gully erosion cluster around Ogudu-Asaa, Igbere, Ebem Ohafia, Uduma Awoke, Elu Ohafia and one located between Abriba and Ohafia have become devastating.
He explains that the agency’s operations follow procedures which involve getting approvals from Abia State Government and World Bank, which sponsors its interventions, and then getting a qualified contractor before mobilising to site.
“The process through which we operate determines how fast we respond.
“As an agency, we have done a detailed study to map out those sites in Abia State for intervention. I can tell you that there are about 279 identified sites, to be very conservative.
“We have seen those sites, and a good number of them have received attention at various levels but what some people do not know is that such works are going on.
“They judge us to be intervening only when they see equipment coming to sites.
“For Isuikwuato, Ogudu-Asa, Uturu and those ones on the road between Akara and the Abia State University, the design we made has been approved by the World Bank.
“Any moment from now, we shall be placing adverts to engage contractors that will execute the work; people may not know, but we are busy,” he says.
Analysts call for intensified interventions to tackle erosion in Abia and other parts of Nigeria and reduce the suffering of the residents.
They are of the opinion that local and national efforts should be made to use natural and artificial erosion control methods to check the huge environmental degradation caused by erosion in Abia and other places.
By Ijendu Iheaka