Ngozi Kanu, a resident of Ovom Street, Ogbor Autonomous community in Aba North Local Government Area of Abia State, a widow, is currently in distress, following the State Government’s decision to evacuate her and her family from their property, a storey building with four flats, which according to her is the only thing her late husband bequeathed to her.
Kanu and other residents of Ovom Street, whose buildings risk being rooted out by a huge gully erosion that has destroyed many buildings already, have been advised by the State Government to vacate the area to save their lives, prior to the recovery of the area.
Government has decided to provide temporary accommodation for the victims in some hotels in Aba, pending when they can get alternative accommodation, a development the victims have rejected.
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Rather than the temporary accommodation, the affected residents want compensation from government, while their tenants are asking government to give them money to rent permanent apartments elsewhere.
The Ovom gully erosion challenge has further exposed the ineptitude of the past administration in the State.
The gully, which had submerged many houses and caused so many accidents, could have been easily avoided, if the government had acted fast to check it.
However, for four years, the immediate past administration in Abia, led by Okezie Ikpeazu allowed a mere destruction of a small part of a drainage to develop into a huge gully that is about to sack an entire community.
BusinessDay checks revealed that the huge gully was caused by a small crash on the drain, by a construction truck that came to drop sharp sand in the street, which couldn’t have cost a fortune to mend, but was left to rot and become a threat to the lives and properties of the residents.
The annoying thing is that a former permanent secretary in the ministry of Environment, in the past PDP administration in the State, who supervised the development of the gully, is affected by this development. His family’s compound is next to be submerged, Ndubuisi Nweke, a resident told BusinessDay.
According to him, such a person, could not do anything to stop this menace. It’s good that he is affected also.
To save lives and reclaim the area, Abia State Government has decided to evacuate and relocate the affected residents of Ovom Street, from the site of the dangerous gully erosion, which is about to submerge the entire area, if nothing drastic is done immediately.
Already so many buildings were submerged at the last rainy season with so many lives placed in danger, by the gully erosion, a situation the current government said it wants to avoid, hence the evacuation.
Joy Maduka, permanent secretary, Abia State Ministry of Environment, while addressing the affected residents made it clear that the present administration in the state, led by Governor Alex Otti, is not just evacuating residents from the danger zone, but will start work immediately to rescue the community from further danger, as a result of the gully erosion.
While the Permanent Secretary was addressing the affected residents on the reasons why they must vacate the danger zone, the majority of the residents proved obstinate, insisting that they have no place to go, despite the danger steering them in the face.
Maduka, responding to their complaints, equally explained to them that the State Government has made provisions for temporary accommodation for the affected residents, stressing that such temporary accommodation will enable them to have a conducive shelter, pending the completion of the rescue work at Ovom Street.
BusinessDay gathered that Aba North Local Government Area Town Planning Authority in September 2023, declared Ovom Street a disaster area and advised the affected residents to relocate.
According to Maduka, Governor Otti wants to make sure that property and lives are secured and saved before the next rainy season. The level of erosion here is bad that we can’t risk people’s lives while working.
“The Government has made available conducive provisions for the affected residents. This is the third time they’ve been ordered to vacate here, but they are stubborn and have refused to understand that their lives are in danger.
“There’s a serious plan on ground to recover this place before the next rainy season, if they had left here by September, last year. We’re not joking about this move today. Every affected building will be evacuated to save lives.
“We’ve given them the necessary grace and we’re taking all those moving out today to the temporary destination. This whole marked-out place is a danger zone.
“The machines will soon get to work to rescue this environment. The safety of our people is our primary concern for now,” she said.