The lamentations of Umuezeawara villagers | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe


The lamentations of Umuezeawara villagers

Posted: Apr 20, 2015 at 2:54 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Christian Emeka Special Correspondent, Awka

Umuezeawara village in Ihiala, Ihiala Local Government area of Anambra State, is in the news; for the bad reason though. There is no good road in the area and the residents insist the government must hear their voice.

Chief James Chukwudolue

Chief James Chukwudolue

They claimed the village has lost over 45 people in several road mishaps due to the menace of tipper drivers that pass through the road to the sand excavation sites at the Atamiri River.

They claimed the road was first constructed by the regime of former President Shehu Shagari in 1980 and stretches from Okija junction, passing through Ihiala to Egbema in Imo State and down to Rivers State.

They have sent several appeals and intervention letters to Governors Willie Obiano of Anambra State and Rochas Okorocha of Imo State but nothing has been done. They have protested for attention but their appeals have not been heard before they started involving journalists for the public court to hear them too.

Their crises are two-fold; first, the road, and second, the scooping of sand from Atamiri, causing more erosion and vegetation menace. So, apart from hazard and risk for the road users, their vegetation is at risk as constant excavation continues to wash the soil surface down into the river, causing erosion and loss of vegetation.

A hydro geologist, Dr Emmanuel Nwabineli, captured it thus:  “As a professional and an environmentalist, I can tell you that our environment is under threat. I know the size of the river in the past, but the level of degradation occasioned by the excavation of sand is a potential danger that would soon come. I have sent petitions to the federal Ministry of Environment and also the state government on the matter; you know that before one begins to excavate sand at any point, you must carry out Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). But this was not done’’.

This is the situation of Umuezeawara village which for several years had enjoyed the River better than they do now; they enjoyed the road too, but at some point it failed, leading to reconstruction work which did not last because of the activities of the tipper operators that put excessive pressure on the road.

The villagers claimed that over 120 Mercedes 911 tipper lorries ply the road on daily bases, hence the agony of the people. The traders at Afor Igwe Umudara village market lamented the hardship they face on every market day.

Forty–four-year-old Mr Lious   Okani from Umuezeawara said, “Before these tipper drivers started using the road, we had no problems; we had enough space to do our trading suddenly the road began to form deep pot holes and it also expanded encroaching into the market.

“I lost my seven-year-old son Chukwuebuka  to the accident that occurred few months ago. He was returning home from the school when one of the tippers hit him and he died on the sport.

“The worst is that the driver ran away with his tipper and all my efforts to find out the particular driver that killed my son proved abortive because hundreds of them pass through that road on daily basis with speed.”

On her part, a twenty-eight-year-old widow whose husband got knocked down by another tipper on his way to a village meeting, but did not want to be named narrated her ordeal thus: “When this one killed my husband he noticed that the village youths are trailing him, he drove straight to the police station and reported himself. At the end of everything they only paid us the sum of N200,000 for the burial of my husband and even when we thought that they would as a result of the incident checkmate their recklessness, the situation has worsened thereby killing many more people in the village”.

Again, Oddy Chukwube, Chief Press Secretary to former Governor of Anambra State, Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju, while describing the situation as worrisome, painted the picture thus: “I feel troubled about what my village is going through. You can even see it yourself. In fact we lack words to express the havoc being caused by these truck drivers. Before now we have made sustained representations to the National Assembly through our legislator at the National Assembly, Chief Forth Dike; the community leaders are meeting and after that we shall also speak with the state government before taking the next line of action’’.

The Traditional Head of Umuezeawara, Ogbuehi James Chukwudolue, explained that, “The tipper drivers start as early as 4.00 a.m. everyday and the way they drive around our village is a threat to lives and even people’s building. They do not respect traffic rules and even when other road users complain they are sometimes beaten up. Since 1964 that I became the traditional head of this village I have never witnessed this number of deaths in recent times”.

Village chairman of Umuezeawara, Dr Donatus Iberi, alleged that, “The way these tipper drivers are behaving shows that there  are some people behind them. We know that this is business for some people but it should not be to the detriment of our lives and the major road that passes rough our village. You need to come here when it rains. You cannot even move around. Several vehicles have gotten sucked on those deep and wide pot holes which can even pass for a gully. Sometimes people follow bush paths to go to where ever they want to go”.

A veteran journalist, Hyacinth Nwabineli, also lamented: “We are really suffering so much, look at the road in front of my house, it is always like River Niger and we will always place logs of wood for people to walk across. I can tell you that so far so many school children and farmers have been killed by these tipper drivers. The number is between 40 to 50 persons that have died so far. We appeal to government to come to our aide at this juncture”.

Governor Obiano has not responded yet, or the Commissioner for Environment, Mr Evarist Uhah, but the actions taken so far to draw the attention of government and Ministry of Environment is commendable. The Governor has under SUNMAP signed some interventions on erosion worth several millions of naira and would gladly give attention to the plight of Umuezeawara but it would be better organised if their representatives in the National Assembly and the state House of Assembly lend support in crying out for the right authorities to hear and do something, all the efforts will yield something positive.