No fewer than 10 residential houses, large farmlands and economic trees worth multi-millions of naira that belonged to some people in Uyo Local Government Area have been reduced to rubble by erosion menace. Also, more than 60 houses have been marked for relocation by Akwa Ibom government for fear of being swept away by the disaster, StraightNews has gathered.
Our reporter who visited the affected areas: Eniong Offot, Urua Udofia leading to Afang Ekpe and Etim Umana Streets said the impact of devastation has been much as huge ravines with a semblance of bomb-hit zone adorn the places.
The ravines spanning more than two kilometres is 300 metres depth and 150 metres breadth sprawls from Anua to Uyo village Road. Popular Aucson Hotels, Kenis Hotel, and The Apostolic Church, along Etim Umana Street as well as Royalty Gardens along Udo Inwang Street and Cardinal Ekanem Seminary overlooking the street, among other personal property, are facing serious encroachment by the disaster.
Landlords and residents in the affected areas are bemoaning the effects of the environmental degradation and recounting their losses on a daily basis. Some have relocated to other places; others are living at the mercy of the menace.
Speaking with StraightNews reporter, Akpan Frank, recalled that after his retirement from Akwa Ibom Civil Service seven years ago, he collected his gratuity, bought a land measuring 1,200 sq. meters at Afang Ekpe off Urua Udofia Street, Ewet in Uyo Local Government Area.
Akpan, 59, never envisaged any disaster or threat to his land, recalling “I built nine living rooms with two parlours for his family of 12 comprising a wife, six children, two daughters-in-law, three grand-children including a tenant in one of the flats. I also built a poultry farm for his wife to eke out means of livelihood.”
According to him, “the menace started in 2015 in full swing and swept away my bustling poultry with more than 1,000 birds fell a prey to the devastating effects of rain water that uncontrollably flushed through dilapidated, but poorly constructed channel into the valley. Every passing rainy season, the valley widens and created nightmarish gullies occasioned by dizzying landslides.”
“To avoid my family being buried alive by the menacing landslides, I had to abandon my ecological-ruined house to squat with a kind-hearted relation in an uncompleted building off Udo Ekpo Mkpo Street in Uyo.”
Corroborating the story, Mrs Atim Effiong, a landlady living along Etim Umana narrated her ordeal the menace had caused her. According to her, “I lost my husband five years ago. We have been living here peacefully without this awful sight. Three years ago, the less threatening-to-life valley contractors channeled water into burst swallowing houses.”
According to the retired primary school teacher, “I have lost a portion of my house. This one (pointing to one at the brink of being swept away) is almost gone if urgent remedial action is not taken to remedy the situation.”
“I want to appeal to the state government to come to our aid. I am a septuagenarian and every day, I am inching to the grave. If this house is sunk, where do I go to from here as a retiree? My monthly pension cannot build this house. Already, some of my children are still in schools”, she stated.
Master Eyakeno Effiong, 15, is a senior secondary one student in Government Technical College, Ewet in Uyo Local Government Area. He lives with his uncle who was absent as at the time our reporter visited the compound. He wept that “See that place (pointing to the gully where their house was situated) there was a five-bedroom flat erected by my uncle. Last year, the menace came and swept it off. Today, we could not even see the ruins.
“I am an orphan. My father died 10 years ago. A year after, my mother joined. My uncle picked me to live with him here. If this one is damaged or ruined, where will I go to as an orphan.”
He appealed to the state government and other relevant agencies to come to their aid to alleviate hardship that they could face in event of their last house being destroyed.
Speaking in the same vein, Okon Akpan, a landlord who lived off Etim Umana bemoaned his fate how he lost his three-bedroom flats to the erosion menace.
Akpan, 65, a trader in Akpan Andem Market, Uyo, recounted “I lost my house and my property. We had all gone out that fateful day. My wife and I went to market and my children left for school. Unluckily, there was heavy downpour. Before one could know what happened, the whole house was swallowed by the menacing disaster. We the affected landlords have lost property worth millions of naira.
“I am now a tenant. Life is not easy. I want the state government to come to our rescue. This would be a better succor to soothe our pains occasioned by hardships”, he observed.
Ewet village is worst hit by the erosion. Eteidung Slyvanus Uwah-Umoh, Ewet village head, expressed concern over the devastating effects of the gully erosion in the area. He said the Commissioner for Environment and Mineral Resources, Dr. Essien had brought experts for inspection, which is aimed at finding permanent solution to the disaster.
“I am equally affected. Go round, you will see that my house is affected too. I sympathise with my subjects have been affected by the menace. I am also pathetic about the plights of the people living near the site if urgent attention is not taken”, he said. A section of a one-storey Royalty Gardens, Uwah-Umoh’s hotel, occupying a sprawling area, has been reduced to rubble by the landslides. His palatial palace is at the verge of being encroached by the menace.
More erosion sites are spawn in the state. From one local government area to another, many are facing the menace. “We have documented well over 1,000 sites of erosion across the 31 local government areas of the state…
“We had done the phasing of the erosion sites since we cannot intervene in all of them at the same time”, Dr. Iniobong Essien, Akwa Ibom Commissioner for Environment and Mineral Resources, said in an interview he granted May 2017 edition of Akwa Green, magazine of Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources.
“So, we have done the first programme for the intervention and first phase includes St. Luke’s Hospital, Anua which I am sure you are aware of the seriousness and severity of the problem. That phase also includes Etim Umana. If you get there, there are over 50 houses that are being threatened as I talk to you.
“We also have Udo Inwang, which is part of that same phase and that alignment also takes us to Government House which is a major infrastructure that is also being threatened. We have done designs for Anua and Etim Umana, which have been approved by World Bank. We have also done the bills of engineering and measurement, estimates – all those have been put in place and have been approved by the World Bank.
“We have gone through a process of advertising for firms that will supervise the work. We have also gone through the process of re-settlement action plan because World Bank does not believe in compensation. They believe if you are relocating any family arising from permanent work that you are going to put in place, you should be able to give them a source of livelihood that is sustainable.
“But what is holding us up is the cost of that resettlement action plan. But I am happy to say that in conjunction with the Ministry of Lands, we are looking at carving out a portion of one of the sites and services location that the Ministry of Lands is developing for the state where some of the people will be displaced arising from the permanent structures that will be put in place on that realignment between Etim Umana and Anua and will also be given a plot of land around there as part of the re-settlement action plan. That in itself is going to reduce the overall cost of resettlement action plan because if you are able to get a good land somewhere for the purpose of building, I am sure that in itself takes out the overall cost markedly.”
Meanwhile, Nigerpet Structures Limited has commenced work at the erosion site to remedy the adverse situation, though resettlement of the erosion victims recommended by World Bank has not started yet.