Raymond Ozoji, Awka
Umueri and Aguleri, two belligerent neighbouring communites of Anambra-east local government area of Anambra state are currently enmeshed in war of attrition over erosion devastations in the area. While Umueri community claims that road construction activities in Aguleri are responsible for the devastating gully erosions ravaging houses and rendering many homeless in Umueri, Aguleri community maintained that such accusations were the height of irresponsibility and senselessness on the part of Umueri and as such holds no water because erosion sites still exist in Aguleri community. To this end, both communites threaten to close-in on each other as clearly depicted in the statement released by Umueri Concerned Citizens as well as the counter response made by the Chief Servant and President-General of Aguleri community.
Umueri community in a statement written and endorsed by the chairman of Umueri Concerned Citizens Comrade Kachi Nzedigwe alleged that Umueri is at the moment a dumping site for the massive road construction works completed and on-going in Aguleri, the country home of the Executive Governor Chief Willie Obiano. Nzedigwe further alleged that Umueri community is on the verge of sinking into oblivion because of the magnitude of erosion menace in the area.
The chairman of Umueri Concerned Citizens observed that while construction works are allegedly on-going in Aguleri, the excretas according to him, are being dumped in Umueri community with reckless abandon. Again, the statement claimed that while asphalted roads with double drainages are being constructed in Aguleri community, the floods and erosions are being channeled to Umueri town thereby causing heavy damages on their roads and the entire town.
It is therefore as a result of the foregoing that the statement of Umueri Concerned Citizens reads thus, “Aguleri a construction site while Umueri her neigbour is a dumping site! It is not news that Otuocha is historically occupied by Umueri and Aguleri as two predominant communities. It is also not news that Otuocha as it is known today, is the headquarters of Anambra East LGA, hence her political symbolism. It is important to also note going forward, that Anambra East being one of the 7 LGAs that make up the Anambra North geopolitical zone became a beneficiary of the agitation for power shift to the zone.
“And by Providence, the mantle of leadership fell in the hands of someone from Aguleri, one of the Towns in Anambra East Local Government Area and Omambla region as a matter of heritage. Having highlighted the above without any ambiguity, it is therefore pertinent and very logical to state; that every community within these areas should as a matter of fair-share be partakakers of the dividends of good governance, which includes but not limited to Roads, Hospitals, Schools to mention but a few.
“But the question begging for answers are; has this administration under the leadership of Governor Willie Obiano done anything to show balance and impartiality in the distribution of our common resources? The answer is capital NO. Umunnem ndi Anambra, I can tell you without mincing words that Aguleri the home town of Governor Willie Obiano has in the past 4 years turned into a huge construction site. It is also arguable that the level of road construction that has taken place and currently taking place in Aguleri is equal to none in Anambra state including Awka the sate capital.
“There is no day that passes by that you don’t see Catapilars and heavy Tractor machines transversing all the nooks and crannies of Aguleri roads to the cheer of on-lookers! As we talk, over 30 roads have been constructed in Aguleri and more are currently taking place. Since the emergence of Governor Willie Obiano for the second tenure in office, all the link-roads in Aguleri are heavily under construction including the track roads with double drainages. One begins to wonder, since Aguleri and Umueri are close neighours and even share common ownership of Otuocha town, it is only normal that Umueri side of the Otuocha town should receive corresponding attention the Governor has for the past 5 years given to the Aguleri side of Otuocha.
“As we speak Umu Nnem ndi Anambra, the gully erosion currently happening in Chief Patrick Metchie and Hon. Chief Fidelis Zegwu Okoye Road, and other parts of Umueri community like the Oke-Ebo Estate all in Umueri is unprecedented. All the buildings in that road have almost been watched off. The State Commissioner for Works, Engr. Marcel Ifejiofor who is from Aguleri has either payed lip service to it or has acted nonchalantly after several calls and cries for government’s intervention. Perhaps, he thinks Umueri as a conquered territory. The other day, during the visit of Osodieme Wife of the Governor to Anambra East Local Government, this same Commissioner for Works announced to the cheering public that the road from Eke-Nneyi Umueri to Umueze-Anam Bridge has been awarded, but we never knew it was one of his political games because as I speak to you, no road has been awarded.
“It is partinent to note however; that the two roads mentioned above, Chief Patrick Metchie and Hon. Chief Fidelis Nzegwu Okoye Roads are very strategic and should be part of government’s priority projects. While Hon. Chief Fidelis Nzegwu Okoye represented the Anambra Central State Constituency in the old Anambra State House of Assembly (1979 – 1983), Chief Patrick Metchie was one of our leading lights. It is therefore very disheartening to see very terrible gully erossion washing off these roads and His Excellency, the Governor of Anambra State who happens to come from that LGA doesn’t care.
“Apart from these two notable individuals whose houses are at the verge of being swallowed by terrible gully erossion, other houses around them are also being threatened by this ravaging gully erossion, the entire people of this two Streets will have to relocate from their ancestral homes if nothing very urgent is done before the next raining season. It is even more regrettable and very annoying that this gully erosion pervading these two roads in Umueri developed as a result of the massive Road CONSTRUCTION going on in Aguleri who are living on the top-hill, while Umueri is living on a sloppy area thereby placing Umueri at the receiving end of all the flood waters from Aguleri.
“We must also place on records, that Umueri community has never before witnessed this terrible gully erosion washing off our roads, but, we have been forced to live with it for the past 3 years as a result of the numerous road constructions in Aguleri which makes flood waters flow down to Umueri in large volume. Prior to the emergence of Governor Willie Obiano, Umueri and Aguleri did not have Asphaltic Roads and whenever the rain falls, the flood waters are usually not heavy because, they normally soak-down the earth thereby reducing the volume of flooding before it gets to Umueri. But now, Umueri suffers the resultant side effects of the developments from Aguleri, a heavily construction site while Umueri her neighbour is a dumping site for floods and excreta.
“We hereby appeal to the Governor of Anambra state to show geniune concerns on other roads in Otuocha community. Otuocha is one and therefore; should be seen from that angle and given a holistic approach. The roads and other development of Otuocha community shouldn’t by any way be one-sided because, visitors will always leave with bad impression when they come.”
But in responding to the claims and allegations of Umueri Concerned Citizens, the President-General and Chief Servant of Aguleri community, Chief Barr. Hipo Chibuzor Onwuegbuke said it is sheer fallacy as well as arrant falsehood for Umueri or any of her neighbours to attribute environmental devastations in their respective domains to construction works in Aguleri. Onwuegbuke said that granted that road constructions were on-going in Aguleri, the same situation applies to other communites in Anambra state where massive construction works were equally in progress. He said Anambra state is susceptible to erosion menace and it is absolutely wrong for Umueri community to point fingers at Aguleri over erosion problems in their domain because according to him, virtually all the communites in Anambra are infested with gully erosions including Aguleri, the governor’s community.
The Chief Servant of Aguleri community in his reactions said, “The erosion site at Nchekwube Onochie street in Aguleri beside Erico hotel is so steep and few buildings collapsed. The youths of Aguleri didn’t wait for the government. We stepped in and started contributing money to remedy the situation before governnent saw what we were doing. Not that it has been done completely but at least it has been salvaged to some extent. So when they say it is the projects in Aguleri, what about the ones from other communites eroding Aguleri? So it is a fallacy for any one of them to say that because I also know that there are good ones amongst them who appreciate reason. But the mischievous ones amongst them will keep on looking for where to get trouble because whenever there is trouble in the land, they benefit from it but whenever there is peace, they become angry. This is no longer an era of might. It is now an era of diplomacy and wisdom.”
Onwuegbuke further disclosed that “Aguleri is not an island, it has neighbours like Umueri, Nando, Nteje, Igbariam, Nsugbe and across the Omambala river. So it will be incorrect for any Umueri man to say that it is the construction in Aguleri that is causing the erosion in their area. It sounds absurd and this is what I will call one of the belligerent acts of those our neighbours. The very stubborn ones are saying this. There are on-going projects in their area too. In fact, the governor builds in Aguleri and builds in Umueri too to avoid peddling rumours around. Whatever the governor does in Aguleri is replicated in Umueri community. Erosion is what I call environmental harzards. Some are natural, Some are man-made. So which of these are they saying?”
The Aguleri President-General however recalled that in 1980, his late father Chief Hycinth Onwuegbuke as the then chairman of the old local government council before it was broken into Anambra-East, West, Oyi and others, said that his father’s first priority was to control the erosion in Aguleri and Umueri. He said his father built gutters to channel flood waters appropriately and that if not for the father’s timely response to the situation then, Umueri and Aguleri would have been history today. He said there are projects going on in Nsugbe, Nteje, Igbariam and all the other neighbours yet Aguleri hasn’t rained allegations on them of being the prime suspects for the environmental harzards in the area, wondering why Umueri Concerned Citizens should cast aspersions on the integrity and reputation of Aguleri community. He therefore stressed that to all intents and purposes, such statements were very untrue and lacked substance.
The Chief Servant of Aguleri community said in as much as they can comprehensively read the hand-writing on the wall, noted that Aguleri was not in any form of crisis with her neighbours and that they have always maintained peaceful relations with neighbouring communites including Umueri. Onwuegbuke said “most of them are rooted here in Aguleri while most of us here are rooted there in Umueri. We have been inter-marrying right from ages. So we want the cordiality that existed between our forefathers and their forefathers to continue. As the Chief Servant of Aguleri community, I have called a peace meeting between Umueri and Aguleri to entrench peace in the area and I will not tolerate anyone trying to truncate that peace. I will also advocate that we have a joint meeting of Aguleri, Umueri and Umuoba-Anam to further enthrone peace and further extend the peace mission to other nearby communites. This mission solely seeks to nip in the bud any act of commission or omission that might give rise to problems as we continue to search for lasting peace between our neighbours.”