It was a cloudy morning in Benin City. It had rained heavily the night before. There were puddles in the several potholes that riddle the road leading to the students’ hostels.
“That gully is a death trap, people avoid getting close to this place,” said Precious John.
Ms John was referring to a gully behind a block of flats in the University of Benin, Oredo Local Government Area of Edo State.
Sadly, this is one of the erosion control projects awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in 2012.
The contract for the project captioned “Gully erosion control behind block of flats in University of Benin” was awarded on May 31, 2012.
However, seven years after, the contractors are yet to commence work.
Gully erosion is the removal of the top soil along drainage channels by surface water runoff. It is the type of soil erosion that consists of an open, incised and unstable channel.
Flooding and erosion of the surface of the soil are some of the ecological problems associated with Edo State.
“This gully has been like this since I got to this school, it only gets worse as the day goes by. No work has ever been done,” Ms John said.
Another student, Joy Ogedegbe, said there are many abandoned erosion projects in Edo State.
“This is an abandoned area. Students rarely come towards this part because of how dangerous it is.
“Unfortunately, this is one of the many projects you will find that have never been done in the state. Most communities are suffering as a result of erosion,” she said.
NDDC projects yet implemented by state
Disturbed by the number of abandoned NDDC erosion-control projects in the state, the Edo government decided to complete some of the projects.
An investigation by PREMIUM TIMES also revealed that some of the erosion control projects awarded by NDDC were implemented by the state government.
The projects “Construction of Erediawa road Erosion control (pond construction) Ugbekun, Edo state” awarded on February 22, 2011, and “Erosion Control at Erediawa (acquisition & drains) in Ugbekun, Ikpoba Okha LGA” awarded on May 31, 2012, were ongoing at the time of the visit by our reporter.
However, findings by the reporter showed that the projects are being implemented by the Edo State Oil and Gas Producing Areas Development Commission (EDSOGPADEC) through Raycon &C0 (NIG) Ltd.
A resident of Erediawa identified as Moses said the road construction started about two years ago.
“They started working on the road for about two years. Before then, you couldn’t even stand where you are right now because you would be stepping into potholes filled with water.
“They have not completed the entire roads they are meant to do. We are hoping they come and complete it,” he said.
Millions down the drains?
According to the NDDC 2016 appropriation Act, about N269 million was budgeted for both projects at Erediawa, out of which N95.1 million has been released.
A report by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) on revenues, deductions, disbursement and application of funds by NDDC, indicates that the commission awarded contracts on jetty/erosion reclamation in the Niger Delta region to the value of N61 billion between 2007 and 2011.”
The report also revealed that over N110 million was spent on jetty/erosion reclamation in Edo State during this period.
Apart from communities listed to benefit from NDDC projects, there are others suffering as a result of gully erosion.
Residents of these communities told PREMIUM TIMES how erosion has caused loss of property, destruction of arable lands and wastage of large areas of usable lands.
Omoruyi Alfred, a 68-year-old man living in Useh Community, Egor LGA of the state, said all his tenants left because gully has taken over the only major road that leads to the house.
“I have been living here since 1982. We are suffering in this area. Look at my house now, no tenants. All the tenants moved out because it’s difficult for them to drive their cars through here.
“See my neighbour’s car, it has been abandoned for a long time because no road to drive through. Once it rains, it get worse because of the erosion coming from the junction. We put lots of sand in sack bags to fill some of the deep spot,” he said.
Loss of farmlands
Osaretin Obasuyi, a resident of Ekiadolor, in Ovia North-East LGA of the state, told this reporter how erosion has rendered his farm ‘useless’.
“We have been battling with the issue of erosion for almost 20 years now. I was born into farming so this has always been a problem for farmers.
“Once it rains, nobody can go to the farm. You have to wait for several hours after the rain before you attempt going to the farm because no road to pass through. People no longer come to buy my cocoa because of the poor road leading to this place. They said until the dry season before they can access this place.
“Vehicles can no longer drive on this road to carry produce from the farm. A wheelbarrow cannot pass too, the only option is to put it on your head. Even while walking, you still fall due to the deep damage done by erosion. Our produce gets bad sometimes because there is no way to pack them out,” he said.
No produce to sell
Mr Obasuyi said the gully has also affected his farm.
As a ‘full time’ farmer, he said his family found it difficult to eat on a daily basis.
“I can no longer send my kids to school because this is my only source of income. I struggle to feed my family daily. It has not been easy at all.
“All we ask is to have a place to farm successfully,” he said.
Bright Eze, a farmer in Iwu community, Ovia North East LGA, said: “Gully erosion is a major problem in the whole of Edo.
“You will always see gullies on our roads and on the farmlands. It is a struggle bringing people to the farm to buy cassava. And when I decide to take it to them, vehicles cannot access the roads because of gullies.
“So the trucks park by the roadside, then we start carrying the cassava there one after the other,” he said.
In a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the spokesperson for NDDC, Charles Odili, blamed inadequate funding for the abandoned projects and others not undertaken by the agency.
He said the commission does not have enough money to meet the needs of the people of the Niger Delta region.
“We need adequate funding to able to meet everything at the same time,” he said. ”We are taking it (funds) bit by bit and before long, every expectation will be met. The Niger Delta will be the place of our dreams.”
He called for increased funding for the commission “because the task of developing the Niger Delta is huge.”
He called for the cooperation of the lower levels of government with the federal agency.
“There should be efforts from the state and local governments. Those are our partners in the development process of the Niger Delta. If we all meet at a certain point, the region will be the better for it,” he said.
Work in progress
The Chief Press Secretary to deputy governor of Edo state, Ebomhiana Musa, said the government was doing its best to end gully erosion in the state.
“It is a work in progress as regards checking the menace of gully erosion in the state.
“Have you ever heard of the Nigeria Erosion and WaterShed Management Project, a counterpart funded programme with World Bank? The project started with the last administration but they couldn’t complete it.
“This government is working round the clock to ensure it becomes a reality that will put permanent stop to gully erosion in the three senatorial districts of the state,” he said.