Anambra Communities Bicker Over N600m Resettlement Fund | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Ndigbo, Region

Anambra Communities Bicker Over N600m Resettlement Fund

Posted: Jun 14, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Christian Emeka Awka

MANY communities in the South East geographical zone of the country are plagued by erosion to an extent that the State Governments do not individually have the financial muscle to face the problem head on.

Gully erosion: Environmental threat in Anambra State (Insert: Obiano)

Gully erosion: Environmental threat in Anambra State (Insert: Obiano)

In that respect, the governments of the five states in the region had approached the Federal Government of Nigeria which in turn approached the World Bank to support the country in addressing severe erosion and its impacts in South Eastern parts of the country Nigeria. That appeal which was granted in 2010 gave birth to Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) designed to address on a multi-dimensional scale the menace of gully erosion in the south east as well as land degradation in the North. The project (NEWMAP) is in line with the growth and resilience goals of Nigeria’s Vision 20:2020.

The $500 million project is expected to impact on the lives of about 2.2 million people at the initial stage. It is also expected that 2.6 million inhabitants of the seven benefiting state would be reached by the intervention in 2020 and about 4.2 million in 2042.

However, five years after its initiation, controversy trails the programme. Two states- Edo and Cross River, said not to be part of the initial presentation have been incorporated into the project allegedly because Engr Amos Abu, the Country Director of World Bank hails from Edo and then Minister for Environment John Odeh hails from Cross River.

Federal Government had released 450 Million Dollars World Bank for erosion in South East region but surprisingly Edo state and Cross River. The two states were not in the initial presentation but because Engr Amos Abu the Country Director for World Bank is from Edo, he added Edo when the then Minister for Environment John Odeh added Cross River allegedly.

Five years after NEWMAP was initiated the projects in some South East states are said to still be at the design level whereas several millions have allegedly been spent on Cross River and Edo states which are said to be progressing.

Communities in Anambra State are accusing the World Bank Country Director and the Anambra state coordinator of the project of diverting money meant to be their displacement benefits and also awarding the contracts to fictitious contractors, thus no meaningful work had been done five years later.

They said the World Bank was not happy that outsiders were doing contracts in Anambra against World Bank directive hence there was an alleged complaint from the Ministry of Environment to World Bank of the sabotage resemblance. They wondered how contracts are selected and how they were awarded claiming that two consultants that bided and won the contracts to do the job where sidelined and contracts given to outsiders.

The Chairman of Ezinano Youths comprising 20 villages in Awka, Comrade Obi Ochije, who spoke on behalf of benefitting communities, dismissed claims by NEWMAP that displacement benefits were paid to the people. He queried how the monies released to the communities were disbursed, alleging that it could have been shared by members of NEWMAP in connivance with some individuals that paraded themselves as representatives of the communities.

Ochije who is also the Anambra state coordinator of Transform Nigeria Movement (TNM) insisted that there was no way N60 Million could have been disbursed to communities ravaged by erosion and the traditional ruler of Awka, Obi Gibson Nwosu would not know about it.

He said, “If the NEWMAP diverted the money to private pockets they should look for it and bring because new administration is coming and all those who diverted money meant for public good will vomit the money.

“It is fraud and despite the vacuum in our President General, N60 million is not just money NEWMAP will share to communities and nobody hears about it.”

However, when this reporter contacted the Consultants to NEWMAP including Okey Oguejioffor who said he was in a meeting, he said he was partially satisfied on how things are going in NEWMAP.

“Please I am in a meeting. I will call you back later” and to other questions posed about contracting and giving out of contract he answered he was partially satisfied as a contractor in the past and at present.

A contractor who gave his name simply as Mr Stanley would not speak our reporter on phone as at time of filling the report. He however admitted he had bided for a contract which was awarded to another person that did not bid. He however said it had been resolved and that he is doing a contract right now.

When contacted, NEWMAP communication officer in Anambra State, Emma Ifesinachi, said “NEWMAP is a platform that handles erosion through multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral approaches. It handles the cause and effect.

“NEWMAP is tailored to address the preventive aspect of this problem through public education and enlightenment programme as well as the cause through civil works/engineering designs.”

He said that under the NEWMAP in Anambra State, contracts for the control of four (4) erosion sites had been awarded in 2014 in the first phase of the Project under former Governor Peter Obi.

He listed the erosion control project to include- the St. Thomas Aquinas/Neros Plaza and the Amachalla erosion control projects both in Awka–South Local Government Area. Others are the Uruokpala – Umudunu, Abagana erosion project in Njikoka Local Government Area and the New Heritage erosion project, Omogba, Onitsha North Local Government Area.

He said the four erosion project costs NEWMAP the sum of N1.5b of which the reputable indigenous contractors who were properly screened, selected and awarded the contracts had been mobilized. The contractors and their job delivery processed are being supervised by the State Project Management Unit (SPMU) with the help of Stop – Gap Supervision Team and the World Bank itself. The essence is to ensure that job delivered is standard and sustainable to meet the test of time.

He said that groups within the watershed still stand to benefit more if they organise themselves as associations with common interest to solicit for grants which the World Bank would consider on their merit and grant such request. The aim is to alleviate poverty so that NEWMAP will leave the people and the area better than the project met them.

The NEWMAP erosion projects are in their various stages of completion as the contractors were given 12 months within which to complete and deliver the project with the necessary combination of hard structural and vegetative ingredients.

Based on the inroad and the understanding struck by the Anambra State Government and the World Bank under the NEWMAP and having paid the needed counterpart Fund of N500m (Five hundred Million Naira), the Anambra State NEWMAP is packaging another fifteen (15) erosion sites for processing and approval by the World Bank in the second phase of the NEWMAP programme in Anambra State.

It is interesting to note that the mother gullies like Nanka, Ekwulobia and Agulu gullies are in the package.

Addressing these mother gullies in Anambra State will be a big relief to both the Anambra State Government and the People of the State.

However, the greatest problem of the State is that the scarce land resource is heavily eroded by a natural phenomenon called erosion. Erosion had become so common that some communities have more than a fair share of the problem. Notable, amongst these communities are Nanka, Ekwuluobia, Oko, Obosi, Nnobi, Agulu, Umuchu, Osumenyi, Ukpor and Ezinifite to mention but few.

Recent research has shown that the problem of erosion of the State will be blamed on two notable reasons. The first is that the land is so porous that it gives way on the slightest pressure.

Secondly, the people attitude to the environment is so poor that it helps to worsen the already bad condition.

The situation calls for environmental education and public enlightenment to teach and re-orientate the people on the best environmental practices that will guarantee the environmental security.