By Christopher Oji
The fear of rainy season is the beginning of wisdom for the people of Ubulu-Uku, Aniocha South Local Government, Delta State. They are apprehensive over the bad state of the only road linking them to their farms and other communities, the Ubulu-Uku- Onicha Ugbo Road.
Every dry season, for years past, the people have contributed millions of naira to sand fill the road as temporary remedy. But but once rains come, the road is washed away, creating gullies and craters.
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Successive administrations have abandoned the road for over three decades. That people are still using the road today is due to the effort of the council chairman, Mr Jude Chukwuwike. He sand filled the road last November to enable the community celebrate Christmas and New Year.
The community sent a Save-Our Soul (SOS) message to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and the World Bank. A community leader, Mr Mark Chidozie, told Daily Sun: “From James Ibori, Emmanuel Uduaghan and now our brother, Ifeanyichukwu Okowa, none of them remembered the road.
“We were happy when our brother took over but the administration will soon be over. It is better late than never. We are appealing to him to come to our rescue.
“Our son, chairman of Aniocha South LG, Pastor Jude Chukwuwike, removed a serious burden from us and gave us relief when he sand filled the road. So, we were not taxed during the 2021 Christmas and New Year celebrations.
“However, by April, what he did will be rubbished by erosion. We will have to suffer from April till November when we contribute money again to put the road in order in preparation for Christmas and New Year. If we don’t do the road, our children will not come home.
“Rains are seen as showers of blessing. Every community prays for the blessings to pour down. People pray for the rain to return to enable them go back to the farm.
“But, on the contrary, the fear of rain is the beginning of wisdom for the people of Ubulu-Uku, especially those who residing along Ubulu-Uku-Onicha Ugbo Road. They live in fear of ravaging erosion that always causes havoc on the road.
“It will not be out of place to say that, if not for their farms, the villagers who live along the road from Ubulu-Uku to Onicha Ugbo would have been praying fervently for God to hold the rain and allow the dry season to continue.
“The reason is that, once the rainy season comes back fully, by April, to pass through the road will be like walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Only the courageous can use the road, but that notwithstanding, many of these courageous ones still end up in orthopaedic hospitals or traditional bonesetters’ homes.”
Another indigene, Mr Tony Osadebe: “Why we are begging that the government should come to our rescue now is that, during the rainy season, the road will be wrecked by gully erosion. It will be rendered impassable to the extent that walking through what is left of the track will be like passing through a death trap.
“The road project was awarded to a prominent son of the state by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). That is why the community is sending a SOS message to President Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila and all well-meaning Nigerians to intervene and end the suffering of residents in the area.
“Our homeland is turning into a place of torment. The residents of the town, who are predominantly farmers and civil servants, have been running away from the land of their birth.
“This is not because of upsurge in criminal activities, outbreak of epidemics or any untoward factors. But because of government’s total neglect of the area. It has been cut off from other communities in Ubulu-Uku and neighbouring towns by erosion.
“When rainy season comes, only the strong and courageous can walk through the road. Many have been injured and maimed. Vehicles and other properties have been damaged in the course of forging through the road. After the dry season, our people, who are mostly farmers, will no longer access their farmlands.
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“This has heightened fear of imminent hunger and starvation, as the only road that leads to the farms will be completely destroyed by erosion.
“There is also anxiety that, if work does not commence to salvage the road immediately, many people would be trapped in their homes, which are likely to be destroyed by erosion.”
Catherine Williams came from the United State for the funeral of her sibling, Boniface. She was devastated, as she could not get to her family compound with the three SUVs conveying her entourage and valuables: “I have never been embarrassed like this. I was coming home in company with my friends from the U.S. and those who joined us from Lagos.
“We had a smooth ride to Delta State. I was so happy that we arrived safely. Just to enter my street, Onicha-Uku Quarters, Ubulu-Uku, we were not able to advance because of the dilapidated nature of our road.
“We had no alternative than to abandon our vehicles. We paid heavily for people to convey our loads on their heads. Neither cart pushers nor motorcycles could pass through the road.
“To walk through the road was like walking through the valley of the shadow of death, because it was in the worst state of dilapidation. We did not arrive my home without minor injuries.
“We daughters and sons of Ubulu-Uku in the diaspora are asking the offence that the Onicha-Uku and Onicha-Okpe people committed that they have been abandoned by government. The last time I visited home was about one year ago. I wonder what the road would look like in one year’s time.
“We understand that government is aware that the contract to repair the road was awarded many times to a senator who embezzled the money and boasted that nothing would be done to him. Our son, Okowa, should do the road while he should help us prevail on the NDDC to come out with its investigation on the road contract.
“On behalf of Ubulu-Uku people at home and in the diaspora, I am appealing to Governor Okowa and the World Bank to do something drastic to avert a extermination of our people who are already suffering from vicarious liability.”
Diokpa Eziashi, an elder of the town, said: “The road is usually impassable from April to December each year due to the deep gully and flooding situation. It also results in serious flooding around homes within the affected areas in Ubulu-Uku.
“During this period, motorists and commuters are forced to take alternative routes to other communities. The flooding situation usually on the road has compelled affected residents to build walls on both sides of the road to protect their properties from floods, but without results.
“We thank our LGA chairman, Chukwuwike, who sand filled the road for us last December. It was the best thing that happened. Our children were able to return home for Christmas and New Year celebrations. But the relief will soon be over, as the rain is returning gradually.
“I want to appeal to President Buhari to wade into our matter and order full-scale investigation into who the contract was awarded to many times by the NDDC. We are aware that money was paid for the road repairs and the contractor stole it.
“I am also appealing to our son, Senator Okowa, to save us from being exterminated by erosion. Let him come to our rescue. He has a few months more in office.
“If our son cannot do the road for us who will do it? Successive governors had abandoned the road. Many of them played politics with the road, promising to fix it for us. But the moment they entered as governors, they abandoned us.
“We know that Okowa is aware that the contract to repair the road had been awarded many times and money paid for the job. But while the Federal Government is investigating, our son should help us fix the road.”