Operation Green Parrot - Newsreel

 

 Oko Community Consumed by Gully Erosion on Multiple Fronts

When computed per capita or by land space, Oko community is easily the town that is most afflicted by the scourge of gully erosion in Anambra state and therefore, the entire country. Much has been seen, read and heard about the gullies in Ekwulobia, Uke, Nanka, Agulu, Ideani, Ekwulumiri etc in recent times, but little mention has been made about what could be characterized as the Mecca of gully erosion menace at ground zero, Oko town. Just for a start, the much publicized Umuchiana erosion gully corresponds to the boundary between the two neighboring towns of Oko and Ekwulobia. In fact, northern edge of the drainage channel at bottom of the gully lies in Oko while the southern side lies in Ekwulobia.

Oko, together with neighboring communities like Ekwulobia, Nanka and Agulu, lies on the escarpment that runs from parts of Edo state, on the west, as far as Abia and Cross River states, on the east. Along this escarpment, there exists the most menacing erosion gullies in the country. The northern and western borders of Oko town are delimited by a huge gully network which extends to Nanka, Agulu, Awgbu and beyond. The renown Federal Polytechnic, Oko and Dr. Alex Ekwueme's home are only a stone throw away from edge of this monstrous gully complex.

 

Dr. Alex Ekwueme 

 

Photo taken from Ekwulobia side of the Umuchiana gully 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The telecommunications antenna mast and church tower in the background are located in Oko's commercial center along the federal highway. About half a mile beyond this corridor lies the real monstrosity of a gully which forms a continuum with gullies of Nanka, Agulu and beyond. In reality, the Oko community is sandwiched between two well established erosion gullies which occupy its southern and northern borders. If nothing meaningful and sustainable is done to arrest the current trend, the already land-starved indigenes of Oko may soon find themselves between the rock and a hard place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the Umuchiana erosion gully head, collapsed building in photo background in situated on the Oko side of the border. Image was recorded in December 2006 when the state government contractor, Achimore, was backfilling the gully with loose laterite by trucks approaching from Oko side (to the left).

Backfilling of very deep gully with dry lateritic soil, without compaction and layering, led to catastrophic collapse of the concrete drainage channel built on top within one year. The federal highway rebuilt over the same backfilled area has collapsed repeatedly due to settling of the unstable weak foundation with each heavy downpour.

 

 

Backfilling of gully head from Oko side in left foreground (December 2006) 

 

Concrete drainage channel marks boundary between Oko and Ekwulobia 

 

 

 

 

The freshly carved gully has very steep slopes and is, therefore, still unstable. Residential compounds on the left are located in Oko and are expected to collapse as the gully edges expand with each rainy season. With breakup and collapse of the concreted drainage channel, which occurred on May 6, 2009, widening of this gully finger shall proceed at a very fast pace. This gully is many times smaller than the humongous one that borders Oko to the north and west.

 

 

It is noteworthy that all recent gully formation, as well as expansion of old ones, are always linked to new road construction in the affected area. The Umuchiana erosion gully was quite insignificant and docile until rebuilding of the Nnewi-Nnobi-Ekwulobia-Umunze-Ibinta federal highway was commenced by the Shagari administration in 1982. The situation was further aggravated by reconstruction of the Uga-Amawbia highway. The culprit here is redirection of habitual storm-water flow pattern by road building contractors without bothering to fully assess the consequences of this seemingly innocuous act of theirs. Government road contracts are routinely awarded in our part of the world without regard to the environmental impact which such a major construction project would have. Almost every community are clamoring for new road construction. If and when these roads are built, it is very likely that additional impetus shall be provided for yet additional new erosion gully development in the communities concerned.

Dr. Alex Ekwueme, as Vice President in the Shagari administration, used his influence to secure a federal contract to work on the Oko-Nanka-Agulu gully complex. This job was awarded to RONASCO International, a German consortium that had the former NPN kingpin, the late Chief R. O. Nkwocha, as Nigerian partner. Solid effective work was being done to tame this gully complex by this company in the early 80s, but all activities came to an abrupt halt as soon as the Shagari administration was sacked by the Buhari-Idiagbon military junta in December 1983. The multi-million dollar project was abandoned and no one cared to maintain whatever was already put in place, which was quite a lot at the time. The high quality concrete channels built to handle storm-water flow along the gully edge were quickly clogged up with silt and debris. Uncontrolled storm-water inflow into the gully cliffs resumed resulting in the eventual deepening of the ravine. Within years, gully expansion caused all the concrete structures built by the RONASCO engineers to breakup and fall into the widening gully complex.

Oko perches on a relatively small piece of real estate which is steadily being nibbled away on multiple fronts with each passing rainy season. The sad aspect of this is that the bulk of storm water responsible for energizing the relentless expansion of gullies, which surround the Oko community from all sides, originates from far away places on higher elevations of the watershed. We can, therefore, say for sure that the ultimate fate of the living space of Ndi Oko lies in the hands of neighboring communities which generate the storm water torrents that could end up obliterating this community from face of the earth if the current trend is allowed to continue unchecked.

 

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