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Residents of Ikot Nkebre Call For Help Over Non Completion Of The Gully Erosion Project

By Emmanuel Onwuka


The gully erosion site in Ikot Nkebre, 8miles Calabar, Cross River State that was guzzling red earth from underneath people’s homes and farms, and making residents fear their property will be next has been halted even at the peak of completion.


More than a dozen homes that laid near the edge of the ravine were destroyed, at least 40 homes, said a local resident.


Climate change, which causes more intense downpours, is aggravating erosion by adding to other factors destabilizing soils including deforestation, unsustainable farming, mining of sand for brick-making, road construction and poorly designed drains.


The N3.1b Ikot Nkebre erosion control project awarded to Akpaven Integrated Services Ltd in 2017, has been put on hold over attacks and insecurity issues meted on Akpaven workers.


According to sources, work was suspended on the project as the state government is alleged to be accusing Akpaven of not paying taxes and other levies.


The Project Director of Akpaven Integrated Services Ltd, Engr. George Brown who spoke on the progress of the project and why the project halted, calls on all relevant bodies to resolve the issue early before the rain fully set in, so as to avert starting the work again from beginning, if abandoned.


He also mentioned that the statements made by the company that before the rain set in, the first face of the job would be completed has been fulfilled.


His words: "In February, we had our media tour with the PC and the entire Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) team, we made some statements that we are going to complete the first face of the job before the rain set in. "


"Looking at Finger 1, you will see that we have fulfilled our promises. What is left is the Bioremediation works which is ongoing."


George added that three weeks ago, they were attacked by hoodlums who came with government vehicles, attacking and beating up their drivers.


"We had some invasion three weeks ago from hoodlums, though we saw them using government vehicles. They came on the pretense of the fact that Akpaven was not paying levy for site mining (laterites)."


"But from record available to us and interactions with the agency responsible for those levies, which is the Cross River State Internal Revenue Service (CRSIRS) and all other relevant consultants appointed by the CRSIRS, we have paid even up to end of April. CRSIRS has not come to stop us or seal our site." Engr. George said.


He also stated that the day the hoodlums came and destroyed their equipment's, the National NEWMAP were in their yard, so it has been an issue where the whole thing was in the open. "The National has taken over the entire issue. Because of the fact that NEWMAP sent us here, we are awaits when they can conveniently tell us that we are not under threat or whatsoever to resume site, we will just do that." He added.


Also speaking on the level of completion of the job and efforts made by Akpaven to make sure they resume work, the Project Manager, Engr. John Ejue stated that the job is up to 95% completion and because of the dynamics of the project, more works are required.


"Presently we are up to 95% completion and because of the dynamics of the project, the project require additional works which would not allow us to have a complete percentage completion."


"We had interference with some unknown people which has resulted to a halt in the progress of this project. They took away our trucks, they vandalized some and also attacked our drivers." Engr. John said.


Relaying his people’s ordeal to news men, the Secreatry, Ikot Nkebre Community Development Association, Elder Emmanuel Ewa said they are happy with the level of the work so far and praised NEWMAP, World Bank and Akpaven Integrated Ltd for the intervention and the level at which the work has gone.


"So far so good, since the work has not gotten to the concluding end, I will say we don't have any problem in terms of confrontational activities or reaction within the community. The community is a peace loving community in Calabar,"


"Flashing back to when we were suffering, but today, we have closed our eyes, open it and see Heaven. We have been redeemed, we have been revived, we have been returned to a state of where we have hope of a good future. We give all thanks to God." Elder Emmanuel said.


On his side, a resident of Ikot Nkebre Community, Pastor Enang Effiom supported Elder Emmanuel for the good job put so far by Akpaven but expressed dissatisfaction and bitterness over the attack on Akpaven workers by hoodlums who claimed were sent by the state government. He appealed to everyone concern to allow the work to continue so the work don't return to its earlier state if abandoned.


"I am an eye witness to the beginning of this situation we find ourselves. some time in 2017, while the gully was encroaching, the community made an effort for self-help to see how they can stop it. In the process, three persons were buried by the earth, we tried to save their lives, unfortunately we lost one of them who was deeply buried inside."


"That was how the final alarm that drew the whole world was made. People of all works of life gathered in Ikot Nkebre to see what was happening. And eventually, the world bank came in to save our situation by awarding this contract."


"Since then, the work has been going on, but epileptically because at a point, there would be a crisis that would cause them to stop the work, otherwise by now, they would have completed this job. And the recent attack that caused the job to be halted now is the one that is on ground."


"The company was attacked, trucks were impounded, drivers beaten, wounded and were hospitalized. Up till now, the trucks are in government custody, we don't know which agency of government impounded the trucks."


"But appeals have been made for them to allow the work to continue before the rain will set in, so that where they have stopped would not cause a repeat of what led to this contract."


"If the channels are not anchored properly, the same thing that happened will reoccur. We are appealing that whosoever is behind the scene should help this community. So many people are living with High Blood Pressure because all their live earnings, they use it to make accommodation for themselves and today they are refugees."


"Some have ran away from this place, some are on hospital beds living on drugs because of the impact of what they saw. So we are strongly appealing that whosoever is doing this should remember we are all from Cross River State. They should help this community."


See pictures of the site before and now.

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