Public Mobility (Roads) & Environmental Challenges Facing The Obiano Administration In Anambra
(Onitsha Nigeria, 17th of March 2016)-It is the resolution of the leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law to publicly draw the advocacy attention of the administration of Mr. Willie Maduabuchukwu Obiano in Anambra State concerning the mounting public mobility (roads) and environmental challenges facing it following nearing of the rainy season.
By Section 15 (3) (a) of the 1999 Constitution (amended in 2011); under Fundamental Objectives & Directive Principles of State Policy (social duties and responsibilities of the governing authorities in Nigeria), “the State (including the Government of Anambra State) is directed, “for the purpose of promoting national integration”, etc, to “provide adequate facilities for the citizenry and encourage free mobility of people, goods and services throughout the federation (or any part thereof)”. By Section 20 of the same Constitution, the State (including the Government of Anambra State) is directed to “protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air and land, forest and wild life in Nigeria”.
Of the four sources of public mobility in Nigeria, particularly in Anambra State: roads, aviation, marine and railway; road network is the most important and strategic. It also solely connects other three public mobility sources. Presently, Anambra State has no airport or railway. The number of people using water transport in the State is very insignificant and restricted to its citizens of river-line areas. In all, over 95% of the people in the State including the aviation and marine passengers, use the State road network.
Combination of these factors makes the State road network stressed up and over motorized; added with fragility or non stone-base nature of the soil system in the State. Environmentally, the State is very hazardous with up to 1000 active gully erosion sites to its negative credit. The State Environmental management is also acutely below the international standards with a series of unchecked human and industrial harmful activities on the State environment. There are indiscriminate and unchecked disruptions of statutory master plans in various urban cities in the State. For instance, medium and large scale industries are indiscriminately being cited with illicit government approval in residential areas. Worst of this is the indiscriminate building of petroleum filling stations in densely populated areas and urban cities and streets of the State. Such illegally built filling stations with illicit government approvals are very indiscriminate in Ogbaru, Fegge, Woliwo, Awada, Omagba, Nkpor and Nnewi urban areas of the State.
In rural areas, there is also indiscriminate and unchecked felling of economic trees. During the yuletide, thousands of economic trees planted decades ago by mothers, fathers, forefathers and foremothers are felled courtesies of fundamentalist Christian groups or preachers who recklessly and falsely tag them “evil trees”. Between the yuletides of 2014 and 2015 alone, between 5,000 and 10,000 economic trees of several households were felled in various communities in Anambra State, on account of the activities of fundamental Christian groups or preachers, who claimed to be embarking on “breaking of generational curses” or “family cleansing”. Examples of these victim-trees are “ukwa trees”, “udala trees”, “ube trees”, “English pear trees”, “cashew trees”, “mango trees”, “ngwu trees”, “orji or iroko trees”, etc. When such important and life-sustaining trees are felled, no efforts are made to replant them. Some of them, by nature, cannot be replanted. Palm trees, too, are not exempted.
The health and environmental consequences of these environmentally unfriendly practices are alarmingly enormous. Apart from acutely diminishing life-sustaining oxygen, leading to pollution and proliferation of life-threatening and environmental hazardous carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide; it has also created acute scarcity of body system-mineral sustaining foods (fruits) as well as hyper increase in their open market prices. For instance, a cup of bread-fruit (ukwa) that is usually sold for N60.00 now goes for N200.00. The worst of it all is that none of these nature produced food items is mechanized by government till date; for the purpose of their production in industrial or commercial quantities. The sharp reduction in life expectancy and sharp increase in infant mortality, infant and adult sickness and malnutrition are attributed to the foregoing. These practices have also disrupted and impaired dietary composition and combination (balanced diets); leading to a situation whereby only rice, swallow (pounded cassava) and yam serve families all day and weeklong and round as only available food (starch).
On public mobility (roads) and environmental management in the State, challenges abound. There are high incidences of erection of structures on waterways and drainages particularly in various urban cities of the State. Dumping of garbage inside gutters and waterways and drainages in urban areas is also indiscriminate and unchecked. Among these is reckless resort to dumping of garbage including used plastic water cans and water sachets (pure water) inside gutters whenever it is raining. As we write, most of drainages in the State particularly in urban cities of Onitsha and environs, Awka and environs, Nnewi and environs and Ogbaru, Nsugbe, Obosi, Nkpor, Omagba, Woliwo and their environs are blocked by sands and garbage.
Also indiscriminate and unchecked, are cutting of the center of tarred roads for laying of cables without refilling them, as well as indiscriminate blocking of public roads with iron gates and burning of disused tyres on the center of the roads. Evacuation of refuse in designated evacuation spots is at snail speed. Dumping of evacuated refuse or garbage in unauthorized and environmentally unfriendly places such as banks of River Niger and streams, has also reached a damaging point.
Combined (negative) effects of these have not only stressed the State road network, but also shortened their life spans and led to failure of their strategic portions during and after the last rainy season. A number of their strategic portions failed because floods forced out of their waterways by blocked waterways swept off the asphalts. Others failed on account of over use or over motorization. Our recent checks on a number of the State’s strategic roads clearly indicated that the incoming rainy season will be very dicey for Anambra road users on account of failure of strategic portions of the State’s intercity and Trunk B roads. In Ogbaru, for instance, Obodoukwu and Ede Roads as well as some portions in the Harbour Industrial Layout are begging for urgent attention. In Fegge and Odakpu, a number of strategic intercity roads like Zik Avenue by Ochanja, Iweka Road, Modebe Avenue, Bida Road, Obanye Street, Iboku Street, New Market Road, Ezenwa Street and a number of others around Onitsha GRA need to be urgently attended to. The gutters of Modebe Avenue, New and Old Market Roads are condensed and blocked particularly at their Onitsha Main Market portions; likewise Bida Road.
Story is same in other parts of the State particularly in State roads located in Nnewi, Aguata, Ihiala, Orumba North and South and Idemili North and Anaocha LGAs of the State. Roads like Owerre-Ezukala-Isuochi and Nnobi-Awkaetiti-Igboukwu-Ekwulobia-Oko Roads are begging for urgent State attention. The Government of Anambra State and its Local Government System has a constitutional duty to fix the problems above highlighted and embark on aggressive and consistent management of the State public mobility (roads) and environment.
The Government of Mr. Willie Obiano is therefore called upon to rise to the occasion by, as a matter of uttermost immediacy and extreme public importance, mobilize the State resources and its Local Government System for the purpose of immediate reopening of all blocked drainages and waterways in the State. The State’s Road Maintenance department or agency should be fully mobilized and dispatched to all the failed roads in the State under the auspices of “operation zero portholes”. For proactive, concrete, apt and prompt attention, the bosses of the 21 LGAs in the State should be directed by the State Government to compile the names of all the failed roads in their areas and submit same. They should also be directed to embark on opening of all the blocked gutters in their areas and evacuation of debris so removed. The Government should also examine critically other environmental and public health concerns raised above so as to fashion out short term and long term measures to address them including enactment of relevant laws and their effective implementation. Part of the short term measures will be a total ban and prohibition of building or approval for building of petroleum filling stations and medium and large scale industries in residential areas or populated streets in any urban city in the State.
On the other hand, we wish to express strong disappointment over what happened at Iyiowa Layout yesterday (16th of March 2016) where the Obiano administration had gone to “commission” the “Abazuonu-Ihitenansa-Ibekwe-Acha-Madonna Catholic Church Road”. Our disappointment stems from clear misrepresentation of facts over the award and completion of the Road project. While we see nothing wrong in another governor deciding to commission a project started and completed by his or her predecessor, if he or she chooses and if the project has not been commissioned; but where we frown at deeply is where facts are deliberately misrepresented.
For the records and public knowledge, Iyiowa Layout in Ogbaru LGA of Anambra State is one of the most enlightened and well organized urban residential areas in Anambra State. The area of it covering Ihitenansa Street, Ehirim Close, Obidike Close, Ibekwe Street, Abazuonu Street or “New Road” and Okafor Lane is commonly referred to in the area as “Ogbaru GRA”. It is has the newest and very good road network and properly electrified with average of 20 hours power supply per day. It is also referred to as “activists zone”, owing to presence of large number of human rights activists including Emeka Umeagbalasi. The recent (still ongoing) advocacy onslaughts against sharp practices of EEDC in the Southeast Zone were spearheaded by the area. The area has four transformers to its credit and advocacy activities and parades one of the best organized community forums in Anambra State, peopled by tenants and landlords.
The Road in question (above mentioned) was constructed owing to four years of advocacy requests by rights activists in the area to former Governor Peter Obi. In January 2013, Peter Obi personally called Umeagbalasi and his group and pleaded with them to identify the strategic area in the Layout for road construction. He further pleaded that the area to be identified must connect the Madonna Catholic Church in the area. He had earlier visited the Church on 16th of September 2012 on the invitation of the Onitsha Catholic Archbishop. He also visited the area on 1st of October 2012 during the flood disaster, where he made a firm promise to build the Road once the flood menace subsided.
He had told the congregation during his visit at the Madonna Catholic Church on 16th of September 2012 that “he had been disturbed for years by some activists living in this area over deplorable state of roads here”. The IDC contractors were taken round as agreed in early January and later in the same January 2013, work commenced on the Road with 12 months completion deadline and in January 2014; the project was completed as contracted (two months before the inception of Obiano administration). During the governorship campaign visit to the area in late 2013, Mr. Peter Obi announced the addition of the remaining part of Acha Street and promised that it would be done on completion of the awarded one by the incoming administration under now moribund “continuation, completion and commissioning” arrangement. In 2014, around April/May, after the exit of Mr. Peter Obi and after the completion of the project, Governor Willie Obiano visited the area during his familiarization tour and announced the addition of Onyejiego Street, which joins the asphalted Road straight from Ibekwe Road Junction. Till date, the two additional streets/roads are yet to be done.
Just like we did on 13th of June 2015 during the claims and counter-claims over who did and completed the Nkpor-Ogidi-Abagana-Enugu-ukwu-Amawbia Old Enugu Road, our purpose here is to put the records straight and plead with those working with Governor Willie Obiano to stop embarrassing the Governor and the State. If not the IDC Contractor that handled and completed the Road project, who in his speech on the occasion, stated that “the contract was awarded in January 2013 by former Governor Peter Obi and completed in January 2014”; the Governor’s aides who earlier claimed false credit over the Road project and its completion, would have ended up making the Governor of Anambra State a liar before his people. What they ought to have done was to advise the Governor correctly and popularly to award additional new road in the area or better still, commence work on “Onyejiego Street” and the remainder of Acha Streets. Just as we had used the area (Iyiowa Layout) in the past 14 years as our advocacy case-study area; dating back to our CLO days, the Road in question is not only our advocacy achievement, but also a good case-study to show the populace at all times how governance can work and alleviate social sufferings, when government is constructively engaged by nimble and virile civil society.
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Esq.
Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program
Mobile Line: +2348034186332
Chinwe Umeche, Esq., Head, Democracy & Good Governance Program