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Ekwueme's Home in Danger

Erosion site in Anambra: many communities are in danger of being washed away

There are fresh fears over the safety of the homes of some residents of Oko Community, in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State, including the home of the former Vice President of Nigeria, Dr Alex Ekwueme.
This is because Rhino Construction Services, the company handling the gully erosion project at Nanka and Oko communities where several hectares of land have been washed away by erosion, has decided to pull out of the project.
Fides gathered that the ancestral home of the former Vice President which has been on the danger list since two years ago, has finally been eaten into by the gully as a result of the rains, and may consequently cave in anytime.
When Fides visited the site, it gathered that residents of both Oko and Nanka communities had been decrying their fate following plans by the company to pull out of the site.
A staff of Rhino Construction Services who spoke to Fides on condition of anonymity, said the company was moving out after the completion of the first phase of the job and waiting for over a year for the commencement of the second phase.
'We completed this project since June last year, and we have even done extra work, hoping that the federal government will approve the commencement of the second phase of the job, but from what we gathered, the Anambra State Government has written to the federal government asking them to hands off the job as the World Bank was taking over.
'What we have done in this first phase of the job can sustain this project for another 10 years, but the federal government needs to approve palliative works on the project for it to last that long. This is because we all know that the World Bank will not commence work on the site immediately.
'Procurement process for projects takes years, and even around Anambra here, there are some other projects that the World Bank is handling that have lasted years without being awarded, and it would not bye-pass those ones to award this one,' the source stated.
It further said the period that would be spent for the commencement of the World Bank contract would hamper the work already done on the project if palliative work was not done on it. He said it would be useless for government to leave a N2billion project to collapse because of lack of palliative that would not cost much.
He said, 'It was specified in the contract paper that the job would come in phases, but we have only done the phase one, and since then, we have waited to be mobilized for the second phase and that is not coming, so we have to move our equipment out.'
Some residents of the community who spoke to Fides expressed unhappiness about the refusal of government to commence the second phase, and even said it would be more catastrophic for Nanka and Oko communities if the company left.
Chief Handel Okoli, a former member of the House of Representatives and erstwhile aide of Dr Ekwueme said the decision by the company to leave would simply throw the two communities into fresh troubles.
'If not for the job the company has done so far, more houses would have collapsed into the gully. Dr Ekwueme has tried his best to reach out to President Buhari over his threatened home; he has even paid a visit and written several letters, all to no avail.
'I want to say that if the federal government allows Rhino to leave the site without any palliative work, it will wash away the work so far done, which has cost government N2billion already. Again, I do not think it is wise for Anambra Government to have demanded for the World Bank to take over the project, because we all know how long procurement process takes in their jobs.
'This site you see is the most radical erosion site in the whole of Africa, and so many lives have been lost to it already, same for houses. You can see the size of Oko and Nanka lands that have been lost to the gully, and we want to beg the federal government to continue with the second phase instead of handing it to the World Bank.

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