By Odogwu Emeka Odogwu
The people of Awka North are happy with Governor Willie Obiano. They said he is doing well particularly the members of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). They said he has done well. They said he has refurbished 250 hospitals in Anambra state yet the only and gigantic general hospital in Awka North at Amanuke remained in ruins. Nothing serious is happening there partially because of lack of infrastructure and no one is concerned.
If you say a word against Obiano’s government in form of genuine criticism in Awka North, you become a wailer, because you weren’t benefitting. Is that how to run democracy? Any democracy without constructive criticism is dead on arrival.
Others in All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the two major political parties are either cowards or afraid of telling truth to power? Their selfish interest are paramount?
First rain of the year was witnessed in Onitsha, Anambra state second week in February, 2020. It lasted for 2 hours and it was a mixed feeling. The rain washed off refuses dumped in drainage channels and defaced the commercial city.
What is the fate of the people of Awka North now that rainy season is back, judging by so many abandoned infrastructure in Awka North. There is no completed tarred road in Awka North. The local government is not connected to other communities via its roads because the roads are inaccessible. Some awarded road contracts have lasted over 6 years without completion like Amansea-Ebenebe-Ugbenu-Awba Offemmili road with a spur to Ugbene and Okpuno-Isu Aniocha-Urum-Amanuke road with a spur to Ugbene.
In rainy season, the roads are impassable and in dry season, the roads are hellish with dusts like balloon hovering past over any vehicular movement. Schools are abandoned by June /July as teachers based in Awka and environs abscond from duties. Children from that area suffer much during rainy season. Government induced poverty is also a challenge. By neglecting infrastructure in Awka North, government is culpable.
Traversing through the communities in Awka North Local Government area during this dry season was hellish, but it will be like dining with the devil himself during the rainy season especially the road that linked Ugbenu and Ugbene with Amanuke community. The road is a death trap. Other roads too. If attended to all the roads in the ten communities in Awka North linked the local government council headquarters at Achalla and to Onitsha either through Awkuzu or Igbariam. Awka North roads connect to Enugu state too. But because the roads were abandoned, Awka North people go through five local government areas to get to Achalla, its local government Headquarters. Is it a shame?
The easiest and closest route to Unizik junction Awka for most people in Ugbene, Ugbenu and Awba Ofemmili is through the Ugbene – Amanuke- Isu Aniocha-Okpuno road or Ugbene-Amanuke-Achalla-Urum-Isu Aniocha road or even Ebenebe-Mgbakwu-Isu Aniocha-Okpuno road, not even through Ebenebe-Amansea, but over six months ago the belly bridge reconstructed by the 14 field Engineer Regiment, Nigerian Army Onitsha connecting Amanuke from Ugbene collapsed, and since then, nothing has been done. Belly Bridge built by the Army and reconstructed by the Army, collapsing?
No attention whatsoever apart from visit by the local government chairman, Hon Ferdinand Onwuje, even though he did not go with the media. Commissioner for Works, Hon Marcel Ifejiofor said some staff of his ministry went on assessment of the collapsed Bridge. Are there no government appointees from Awka North to facilitate Obiano’s visit there as well as government urgent attention?
Former Presidents General in Awka North Association speaks
The former presidents General met and re-echoed on the need for Obiano to intervene on Awka North roads as council area appears abandoned by all indications.
Chairman of Awka North former Presidents General, Chief Mike Ekwunife flanked by Pharmacist Paul Enemuo former PG Amanuke as well Chief Shedrack Anakwue and former PG Amansea/ former ASATU PRO, Chief Ifeanyichukwu Cajethan Nwokike , among other former Presidents General lamented on the neglect of Awka North by the Obiano administration.
They noted that there is no other local government abandoned like Awka North in the state hence Governor Willie Obiano should declare a state of emergency on Awka North roads as the people have suffered untold hardship and decadence.
They lamented that communities in Awka North could not access their council headquarters without running around four to five local government areas of Awka South, Njikoka , Dunukofia, Oyi, and Anambra East before connecting to the council area of Achalla.
They pointed out that the communities are interlinked with roads to the local government Headquarters but unattended to like Amanuke through Ugbene and Ebenebe through Mgbakwu.
They informed that a team of investors visited Awka North for investment but were stunned they could not access any part of the local government with ease and that was how we lost the consortium of investors from China. The Governor during his election promised to attend to Awka North as part of Igbo Adagbe but never did.
They insisted that if Awka North had good roads, every other thing would have been sorted out, lamenting that in 2014, Awka North communities threw in everything to elect Chief Willie Obiano as Governor only to be abandoned soon after even when Amansea-Ebenebe-Ugbene-Ugbenu-Awba Ofemmili road was the first he visited after becoming Governor. They said Obiano promised to link the road from Awba Ofemmili to Ayamelum but has not even completed the road since six years he assumed duties.
They asked Obiano to stop the negligence of the people of Awka North and complete the roads awarded since 2004 by former Governor Peter Obi led administration. They asked for state of emergency on Awka North roads by the Obiano’s administration as no road in Awka North is passable even with a Jeep, particularly Amansea –Ebeneb-Ugbene-Ugbenu and Awba Ofemmili.
Adding his personal voice, Chief Shedrack Anakwue, Oronukwu, former local government chairman and former Amanuke PG, informed that the Amansea to Awba Ofemmili road was awarded by former Governor Peter Obi and handed over to Governor Willie Obiano but nothing has been done since then. He said government should include Awka North in its business as it has denied Awka North appointments, no commissioner, no Permanent Secretary and no chairman of Board. He said Amanuke General Hospital has been abandoned even when it is one of the oldest hospital built to standard in early 80’s.
Collaborating his stand, Dr Anaerobi Okoye said it was unfortunate Achalla, the capital of Awka North is assessed by going round through five local government areas whereas there are roads within Awka North to assess the council headquarters. He wondered why Awka North should have no roads but other local government areas have roads leading to nowhere but farmland tarred, insisting it was pathetic. ‘We are neglected’, he concluded. He noted that Awka North has people wiling and capable to contribute its quota but has not been given a chance to be part of governance.
For Hon Romanus Nnebenanya, former Transition committee member Awka North from Ugbenu: ‘’the problem of transportation from Ugbenu to Awka is hellish. There is no road since I was born 60 years ago, road has been our major problems in Awka North particularly Awba Ofemmili-Ugbene-Ugbenu through Amanuke. He reaffirmed that going to Awka is tedious and suffering.
‘Government abandoned us until Peter Obi came into office and awarded our roads, flagged them off, kick started construction to some extent from Amansea through Ebenebe , and through Okpuno-Isu Aniocha-Urum-Amanuke axis as well as sand filled some parts with drainages up to Ugbenu until Ebenebe Bridge collapsed.
Obi did drainages in his first term and would have completed the road if not for the collapse of the Ebenebe Bridge. Our people suffered for years peddling canoe to cross either way to Amansea or to Ebenebe.
‘You wear short or fold your trouser up, enter a boat to cross over and continue the journey. For months to years and the suffering continued until Obi’s administration got a company in Egypt that constructed a steel bridge but after hanging the bridge his second term was over. Obi did the Ugbenu Bridge with steel too at Egypt. The two bridges were done by Obi before handing over to Obiano.
He reaffirmed that since Peter Obi left nothing has happened at the Amansea-Ebenebe-Ugbene-Ugbenu- Awba Ofemmili-Amanuke road and other roads awarded by Obi in Awka North, but a little at Amanuke and Isu-Aniocha. He lamented that Obiano is seen as part of Awka North but has abandoned his people in Awka North. He recalled that his first official duty was to Ugbenu Bridge where he promised to link the road to Umuolum in Anambra East and then Ayamelum. Obiano promised to do the bridges to link the communities in Awka North and those of Anambra East but till date not even a tipper sand was done on the roads.
He reported that rains washed away the sand filled on the roads and soon if nothing is done, the road would be cut off. He informed that going to Awka is a day’s journey as vehicles no longer ply the road as from Ebenebe Bridge to Amansea is waterlogged whereas the other side from Ebenebe are potholes. He confirmed that it now costs between N1,500 to N3,000 to travel via that root to Awka.
This is a far cry to the different challenges bedevilling Awka North , according to High Chief Hon Onwelukwue Aaron Nwnnebuike Chukwukadibia , JP , a political Scientist and lawyer as well as the Owelle of Ugbene who blamed former political office holders and appointees on the predicament of Awka North.
On whether Awka North was abandoned, Hon Onwelukwue said: ‘’ Yes and no! Yes in the sense that we have not had a vocal voices as our representatives in the state House of Assembly and the National Assembly.
He lamented that the mandate given to the people who represented Awka North, if adequately utilized , Awka North would not be abandoned as it is today. He insisted that those who represented Awka North failed in their representation by not constantly drawing government’s attention to the deprivation in the council area.
Onwelukwue noted that proper representation in Awka north started with Hon John Ifechikwulu Nwokoye, aka More Money as he has been vocal in the House appealing to government for the interest of Awka North people, even intervening where necessary.
He said Hon Nwokoye has two constituency offices now for better representation and has moved a motion for intervention for Awka North roads. ‘’He has been vocal and his scorecard is unequalled. Awka North is marginalized by our people.
He insisted that the sons and daughters of Awka North who were elected to represent the constituency ,but rather took the mandate and ran away were responsible for the dilapidation and abandonment experienced in the communities in the local government.
Owelle Ugbene as he is fondly called suggested a way out of the mess as he said our representatives should tell government what the people of Awka North needed for interventions and not running away with the collective mandate of the people.
He is however of the opinion that it was not all bad as the Governor Willie Obiano led government has demonstrated uncommon love for Awka North with a network of road ongoing in Amanuke, Mgbakwu, even inside the Anambra state Polytechnic where the students protested some time ago. He said but for the topography of Amansea-Ugbenu-Ugbenu-Awba Ofemmili road, the state government did a great work there. He said hopefully after the rains, the contractors mobilized by the state government would go back to site. This was shocking as he was speaking in the peak of the dry season.
He reminded that the wife of the Governor, Chief Mrs Eberechukwu Obiano re-echoed it when she visited Awka North secretariat at Achalla during the August meeting that those representing Awka North, it was their duties to continuously remind the Governor of the challenges of Awka North people, as the governor won’t be in Awka and Achalla at same time.
He concluded that if Awka North people in the government do the needful in true representation, that things would have changed and improved. He apportioned the blame to community leaders including presidents’ general, traditional rulers to mention but a few.
Onwelukwue who was the campaign Director General of Hon Nwokoye campaign organization said ‘’The Governor cannot be a seer! Who and who notified the government about the situation of Awka north’s neglect? We are punishing ourselves, wiping up sentiments, but thank God we have gotten a vocal voice now in the person of Hon Nwokoye.
‘’We shall send representatives to our Distinguished Senator Uche Ekwunife, Iyom and member of House of Representatives, Engr Chinedu Onwuasoanya for their intervention for Awka North. He even appealed to the people of Awka North to submit information on the challenges of Awka North people for interventions to their representatives in the State House , House of Representatives and Senate as well as the state government.
He decried that communities in Awka North are not linked up and as well were cut off communication wise as Ezu Belly Bridge abutments have collapsed at the Amanuke/Achalla axis. From that axis to Awka is between N1,500 and N2,000 but through Amansea to Awka is between N2,000 and N3,000’’. That road is waterlogged though passable because it is a sandy soil.
He reminded that soon it would be harvest time and there would be no access road to take away the farm produce.
He informed that Awka North quota in civil service has been denied them as Awka North now has no Permanent Secretary, no Directors, no Chairman of Boards, no Commissioner, no Magistrate, no Judge in the state Judiciary, no nothing to mention but a few. He appealed to Governor Willie Obiano to give Awka North its fair of recognition in line with public policy of fairness to all the local government areas.
Ugbene people lament over bad road
A former council , Hon Obodoechina Festus is appealing to Governor Willie Obiano to use his good offices to intervene in Awka North roads and infrastructure which is now completely absent. He lamented that coming home was pains for him instead of joy, hence the need for the government of the day to intervene without further hesitation.
Mr. Fabian Okoro, a farmer from Ugbene said his community is suffering and in need of serious help. And he said that because of the bad road , all things produced in the community resides there and do not move to anywhere because there is no way.
“I cannot use my head and carry my rice to Eke Awka to sell. People know and patronize our rice and fishes very well in the past but now, there is no way to convey them to people again. We produce and eat them by ourselves. Few people that managed to come to buy on several occasion don’t see means of going home. Sometimes, their commodities spend weeks before they see a driver that will agree to convey the goods. During rainy season, we don’t go out and we don’t come in. If we call an Okada rider that will convey us to Amansea, they charge us N1,000 even without any commodity. Another farmer who gave his name as Anthony collaborated his views.
Mrs. Victoria Anyake also a farmer said she cultivates cocoyam and rice mainly but have no means of selling it. “What I do is that when I harvest my farm produce, I call marketers who I have their numbers to find means to come. It is not all vehicles that come to Ugbene, we call big Lorries to convey our products but they charge us too much. I depend on my farming work to train my children two of whom are in the tertiary institutions. There was certain time I had wanted to go to market and it started raining. There was no means to go. Before the next couple of days, my son came back and demanded for his school fees, but I had planned to pay the fees if I sell the farm produce.
A shop owner, Mrs Ijeoma Egbuke while lamenting of her daily experiences while trying to convey her wares which she bought at Eke Awka market to Ugbene village said: “our suffering is too much because the roads are not good. We spend too much because the roads are not good. We spend too much to get to other communities because roads are not good. Okada people charge us huge amount of money to take us to any part of the neighbouring town. During rainy seasons, the road is in total mess. We do not go anywhere once there is downpour. If anyone dares, the person may be forced to sleep on the road. Even during dry season, the road is still rough because it generates too much dust and this has been causing health challenges to most people of the community.
“As a business woman, okada people charge me nothing less than one thousand five hundred naira to convey my goods alone to the village. As I’m talking to you now I don’t have any savings because transport keeps consuming the money I make. I use the road almost every day because I sell fish, meat and other items. The situation has been affecting my business as most of the gain I make from sells are taken by the Okada people who convey my goods to our community.
Stephen, a cloth seller in the market square beside the community primary school said that his business has in recent times deteriorated as a result of the condition of the community. He said that he deals on jerseys and other wears meant for youths but since the roads have been in terrible state, young boys from neighbourhood communities do not have access to his shop again resulting in low patronage.
” Due to the bad roads, strangers and outsiders do not patronize our businesses here. It is only the few people in the community that buy and sell among ourselves which has had a direct impact on our ability to solve our family problems especially we that have wives and children. Before we take our commodities to Amansea, Okada people tell us 1,000, 1,500 which may not even cover the whole price of the commodity. Government do not want to remember us as if we are not part of Awka North local government. During the last election, government people led by Awka north Chairman promised us heaven on earth about the road but they abandoned us.
‘’As we are farmers, we need loans to produce more. Government have been giving loans to farmers in other communities, but such provision have not been made for us’’.
Another trader and member of the community vigilante group, Chief Samuel said that he cultivates cassava and produces garri as well. He said that he constantly convey his goods to Oye Amansea to sell. He said that the community have only one vehicle that agrees to convey traders to and fro the market especially on Oye market days but any day the vehicle fails to turn up, the goods will have to wait for another four market days while the perishable ones will waste leaving the traders short of money for their daily needs.
Recounting a horrible experience he had recently, another shop owner in the community, Anya Clement said the state of the road is a horror to the people of Ugbene community and has affected his business in that he has to increase the prices of the commodities by some percentages so as to survive the harsh charges of the Okada riders. ” If I buy anything ten naira, I sell it fifty naira to cover cost but the charging is too much. The worst part of it is that there is no blessed day that I do not fell on the road with my goods.
Cut off by the collapsed Ezu River Belly Bridge
Investigation by our reporter who personally visited the failed bridge site showed that one end of the heavy bridge rests on the support of tree branches carved out by the members of the community with few planks levelled at the end to allow people who are brave enough to trudge past. This reporter with his Okada almost entered the River, but saved the situation. The bike taught the collapse was on Amanuke side and was running to climb the Bridge before halting abruptly. On a few occasions motorcyclist and pedestrians fall into the river in an attempt to pass through. Luckily those who did were swimmers. What if, they weren’t swimmers?
Chief Nwunne David, Ikukuoma 1 of Ugbene said that Ugbene people do not have access to Amanuke community anymore because of the failed bridge but called on Governor Willie Obiano’s government to intervene quickly to help the community before arrival of rainy season.
“Ugbene community is suffering. During the raining season, one of the head of the bridge collapsed and that bridge up till now, nothing have been done. Though some government officials have come to view what has happened but there is no response yet. We are expecting government to come to our rescue because Ugbene is one of the few basket communities in Anambra state. We are mainly farmers who specializes in the production of various agricultural products including Rice, Yam, Cassava and Fish among others. We want government to give us access road so that we can take our produce to the town where we can make money out of it.
Cornucopia is a weekly column of Odogwu Emeka Odogwu, PhD. Odogwu, a culture and tradition aficionado and a foodie is a known Journalist, Editor, Media Consultant and famous Blogger, as well as Social Media Entrepreneur, publisher and Conversationalist @ www.odogwublog.com among others.
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