Before erosion swallows Oko Polytechnic

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Recent reports that the Federal Polytechnic, Oko, in Anambra State, is at risk of being swallowed by gully erosion demand immediate action to address the problem.

The warning that school buildings worth N7.5 billion would be lost to this ecological problem if nothing is urgently done to stop its onslaught is worrisome. The Rector of the institution, Prof. Godwin Onu, who drew attention to this troubling situation, has called for assistance from the Federal, State and Local Governments. Erosion is a major threat to many communities in the South-East geo-political zone.

The Oko gully erosion, which measures over two kilometres and about 100 metres deep, has been described as the largest in Africa. It has already swallowed over 27 houses.

The perennial erosion menace in Oko is similar to that of Nanka and many other erosion-ravaged communities in the South-East. It is a pity that this problem has persisted in the Oko and Nanka axis over the years, with attendant loss of lives and property. It has apparently defied solution, in spite of the efforts of different governments to stem the menace over the years.

Past measures to address erosion in the zone include the N11.5 billion made available by the Federal Government for some erosion-control projects in the South-East. Another major intervention is the recent Federal Government/ World Bank-backed $500 million medium to long term plan targeted at addressing soil erosion in some parts of the country through the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP).

Despite these and other interventions by successive administrations in the country, erosion as exemplified by the one in Oko has been unrelenting. The problem is escalating rather than abating.

It is time government evolved more pragmatic and workable approaches to erosion control in the South-East and other affected parts of the country.

It is not in doubt that past erosion control measures in the zone have been unsuccessful. A new plan of action is necessary now to check the problem. Government should also review the work of the contractors handling erosion-related projects in the zone to determine their suitability and the quality of the jobs done so far. Erosion control efforts should not be another avenue for unscrupulous politicians and briefcase contractors to siphon public funds.

We implore the Federal Government to intervene immediately and rescue the Federal Polytechnic, Oko, before it is gulped by erosion.

Government should do something urgently to save the deteriorating situation. The first major step in arresting erosion in Anambra State and, indeed, the entire South-East, is to address the cause of the problem. It is necessary to do this to ensure that the institution and large swathes of the geo-political zone are not consumed.

The Oko Polytechnic erosion must be addressed squarely before that educational institution of higher learning crashes into the gully. This academic institution that trains thousands of the nation’s future leaders should not be allowed to be ingested by this ecological problem.

It is time to design a comprehensive national plan to tackle this environmental problem, to ensure that the institution and other affected areas in the geo-political zone do not collapse into erosion pits.

The federal, state and local governments must all be part of the effort to address the problem, especially in the South-East where its effects are more pronounced and devastating. Let donor agencies and Nigeria’s development partners come to the aid of the South-Eastern states to overcome this problem.

It deserves to be treated with all seriousness. Ecological funds mapped out for erosion control measures in the country should be judiciously utilised. It is important that the government strictly monitors the disbursal and use of these funds. Drainpipes and areas of wastages in the utilisation of these funds should be plugged.

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