SOUTH EAST AND INFRASTRUCTURE DEFICIT
The South East geopolitical zone made up of about five States namely Imo, Enugu, Anambra, Ebonyi and Abia States is the heartland of the Igbo speaking nationality. This zone can boast of producing some of the finest intellectuals and top flight technocrats spread all over the world who are vastly respected in their diverse fields of calling.
The zone produces arguably the highest percentage of undergraduate university applicants yearly which goes to show the elevated scale in which learning/intellectualism has reached among the people of these vast geopolitical area.
But one thing the South East geopolitical area lacks is the needed and necessary federal presence and the strategic infrastructure that would enable the people to harness their natural and human resources to achieve collective economic growth and advancement of the area. This accounts for the presence of a lot of youth that are jobless and therefore restive. Even Aba that used to be the industrial hub of Southern Nigeria is in a total sorry state due largely to the criminal neglect of the basic social infrstructure by the Abia State Government successively. Onitsha in Anambra state that used to boast of having the largets market in West Africa is bereft of the basic infrastructure of even facilities as common as drainage system which the state and local Government areas can afford without waiting endlessly to the inept federal administation to do these basic things for the people who are constantly harassed by the state Government to pay tax.
Last week, I embarked on a two days scientific study of the current state of infrastructure in the South East with visits to Enugu, Onitsha, Okigwe and Aba with whistle stops at Owerri and Umuahia and without mincing words I can state categorically that South Eastern Nigeria suffers from monumental deficit of infrastructure far worst than what obtains in the other geopolitical zones which I have had the privilege to have lived and worked for years.
Apart from poor road infrastructure affecting virtually the entire federal; states and local government owned and maintained roads, there is the more serious problem of erosion which poses greater environmental threats to several communities including the home town of Nigeria's second Republic vice President DR. Alex Ekwueme (Oko, Orumba North Local government in old Aguata, Anambra State).
Deadly gullies of huge proportions have enveloped other communities such as Uturu and Isukwuato all in Abia State. The question on the lips of most people interviewed is why the infrastructure in the South East have been allowed to deteriorate to this sorry state and people are asking whether the South East has political leadership that is charismatic, patriotic, selfless, nationalistic and corruption-free that can speak the mind of the South East and attract equitable federal development to the zone.
Interacting with people in the rural communities visited last week, I came out with the impression that the people of the South East are totally disappointed with the political leaders from the zone who have consistently betrayed the collective aspirations of the people for their selfish pecuniary goals.
The people for instance questioned the rationale in voting massively for the current President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in the 2011 election on the promise that the second Niger Bridge and other serious infrastructural deficits suffered by the zone would be addressed only to discover that these vital infrastructure are deteriorating further due to neglect by the Federal government.
To therefore read in one of the national dailies that the ministry of works has claimed to have executed 98 percent of its capital projects in the 2012 Appropriation Act is one of the biggest fraudulent claims because in the entire South East there is virtually no proof of any completed and well maintained federal roads.
On the aspects of erosion, the people wonder why successive ministers of Environment since 1999 promised to address the situation but only to end up not doing anything but engage in political rhetoric while the political office holders of the South East at the federal level are only good at shedding crocodile tears over the bad state of erosion in the South East but refuse to use their influence to collectively ensure that South East gets better deal from the aspects of the Federal budgets that are eventually implemented.
Only on Monday, media reports claimed that the House of Representatives' committee chairman on Environment and member representing Anaocha/Dunukofia/Njikoka Federal constituency Mrs. Uche Ekwunife wept at the site of very serious erosion disaster in a part of Anambra state. Oh! what a crocodile tear?
Speaking at Nanka erosion site in Aguata Council Area of Anambra State when she paid unscheduled visit to the site at the weekend, Ekwunife, the politician, expressed fears that the rate at which the erosion was escalating and encroaching into other communities was alarming and a threat to the entire state.
Mrs. Ekwunife further disclosed that most worrisome was the fact that the erosion had grown beyond the control of the contractor currently handling it, adding that it should be declared a special erosion site by the Federal Government.
“The Nanka erosion site should be made available to control it because as you have seen, it is encroaching into other nearby communities and if care is not taken, it will sack the entire Anambra State. The project demands special funding from the Ministry of Environment and more competent contractor should be given the project because as it stands now, it has gone beyond the control of the contractor handling it”, she reportedly stated.
Media report said that she also disclosed that lack of prompt intervention into the control of the erosion site and other ecological disasters was responsible for the escalation of the erosion in the state, noting that the control of the erosion site could have been done earlier last three years when the disaster had not escalated.
Mrs. Ekwunife said that the Nanka erosion site and other serous active erosion sites within the state and South East in general should be declared special projects to forestall further natural disasters.
“We are going to make sure that Nanka project is considered a special project and special funding mapped out for it because if it is not tackled, it will wipe off the entire Anambra State because it is encroaching into other communities and it is only a company like Julius Berger that can handle it,” she said.
The House Committee Chairman also urged the state government to have good waste management scheme so as to control the disaster that according to her were often man made and called on companies operating in the state to have proper ways of channeling their waste products.
Mrs. Ekwunife, Nigeria's latest crying madam please note that the people are watching you and your other partners in the National Assembly to see if you would attract Federal attention to this serious enironmental threats of erosion in the South East.
Still on infrastructure deficit of South East Emeka Nwosu who is a very senior media practitioner and is currently working in the media office of the Deputy Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives has strong opinion about it. He happened to have travelled to parts of the South East about the same period under review in this piece and his observation is as relevant as it is factual.
His words: “I just returned from a one-week trip to the South East which saw me traversing Enugu, Abia, Imo and River State. The Enugu Port Harcourt Highway has become an unqualified disaster; a national embarrassment. To move form Lokpanta at the Enugu-Abia border through Okigwe to Umuahia, Aba and Port Harcourt has become a huge problem”.
Emeka Nwosu who is also an Author and a columnist with Thisday Newspaper suggested the following solution: “A concerted action is needed from our political and traditional leaders to get President Jonathan to fix the roads”.
Unfortunately, the political and traditional institutions have collective betrayed the people of South East because majority of the political and traditional elite from the South East only visit President Jonathan to solicit for contracts and other personal benefits and do little or nothing to speak for the people.
The Youth and other professionals untainted by the lucre of political contracts should unite to fight for the interest of the South East geopolitical zone so that a scientific and comprehensive economic rescue/marshal plan for the region should be worked out and implemented because since after the civil war, the successive Federal governments/administrations have not deliberately implemented developmental projects to rescue the geopolitical zone from the devastating consequences of the 30 months civil war. The so-called political contraption called OHANAEZE group is largely populated by old contractors who have no interest of the South East at heart. They are therefore unreliable and are only seen shouting the idiotic song of IGBO PRESIDENCY while the South East zone remains backward economically due to skewed and distorted government policies at the federal level.
* Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, HUMAN Rights Writers' Association of Nigeria blogs @www.huriwa.blogspot.com.