Farm­ers count losses over col­lapsed 48-year-old Abia bridge

Sunday Trust - - PAGE 3 COMMENT - From Li­nus Ef­fiong, Umuahia

Elemaga Itunta is a small farm­ing vil­lage in Ibere, Ik­wuano Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area, about 15km south­west of Umuahia, the Abia State cap­i­tal. Of­ten re­ferred to as the food bas­ket of Abia State, Elemaga is lo­cated in the cen­tre of Iny­ila, Isiala-Ibere, Ahia Orie, Iberenta, Iny­ilu, and Oburo com­mu­ni­ties.

Daily Trust on Sun­day learnt that the col­lapse of the 48-year-old bridge that linked farm­ers to neigh­bour­ing com­mu­ni­ties had be­come a night­mare. The bridge, which col­lapsed as a re­sult of ero­sion me­nace, con­nected other rich farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties like Oburo and Nkalunta.

The peo­ple are known for the pro­duc­tion of rice, co­coa, palm oil, plan­tain, cas­sava and cu­cum­ber.

De­spite its prox­im­ity to Umuahia and be­ing known as the food bas­ket of the state, var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties that make up Ik­wuano Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area are sub­jected to lack and ne­glect as can be seen in in­fras­truc­tural de­cay and lack of ba­sic ameni­ties there.

Un­for­tu­nately, as a re­sult of the col­lapse of the bridge, the farm­ers are forced to keep their pro­duce at home un­til in­ter­ested buy­ers find their way into the vil­lages by what­ever pos­si­ble means. The traders in turn sell at ex­or­bi­tant prices when they even­tu­ally get to the mar­ket.

Our cor­re­spon­dent also ob­served that Elemaga Itunta also suf­fers ne­glect in health care, roads, schools, potable wa­ter and other ba­sic in­fra­struc­ture.

The tra­di­tional ruler of the com­mu­nity, His High­ness Ibe­abuchi Chi­diebele, said the col­lapsed bridge was con­structed be­fore the Civil War. He noted that dur­ing the fifth Abia State Co­coa Fes­ti­val, a Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tion led by the then Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture, Ak­in­wumi Adesina, vis­ited the com­mu­nity be­cause co­coa, rice, palm oil and other farm pro­duce were har­vested in large quan­ti­ties.

Be­fore the even­tual col­lapse, the bridge was main­tained and sus­tained by the ef­forts of the com­mu­nity through yearly con­tri­bu­tions.

“As I speak with you, our com­mu­nity pro­duces 10 tons of co­coa yearly. We ex­port our lo­cal rice, plan­tain and palm oil. But be­cause the bridge has col­lapsed, this has be­come in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult. As it stands now, to­mor­row is our ma­jor mar­ket day and we use wheel­bar­rows to carry our farm pro­duce through the deep river to the other side of the bridge. Some­times the ser­vices of load­ers are re­quired, de­pend­ing on what is to be ex­ported. If the farm pro­duce are much, their ser­vices are re­quired, but most times their ser­vices are not af­ford­able.

“How­ever, de­spite the fact that the bridge col­lapsed, buy­ers still come to the com­mu­nity to buy farm pro­duce at give­away prices. When they come from the town, they have no op­tion than to cross the river be­fore they can ac­cess the com­mu­nity,’’ the tra­di­tional ruler said and ap­pealed to the gov­ern­ment to come to their aid.

Also speak­ing, Anayo Chioka, a co­coa busi­ness­man, lamented that since the bridge col­lapsed, his busi­ness also col­lapsed be­cause there are a lot of co­coa pro­duce in his house but no buy­ers as there is no ac­cess road. He said that for the past 10 years, pal­lia­tive works were car­ried out on the bridge be­fore its even­tual col­lapse. Most times we carry our co­coa bags on our heads to cross the river for our cus­tomers,’’ he said.

It was also ob­served that some un­em­ployed young men in the com­mu­nity have taken ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion to play the role of in­ter­me­di­aries be­tween farm­ers and the buy­ers.

When Daily Trust on Sun­day con­tacted the mem­ber rep­re­sent­ing Ik­wuano/ Umuahia North/South con­stituency in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Sam Onuigbo on phone over the sit­u­a­tion, he said he had com­menced the process of re­con­struct­ing the bridge.

“It is true that the bridge which links Itunta, Obuoro and some other Ibere com­mu­ni­ties to other vil­lages in Ik­wuano Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area, Umuahia and other parts of Nige­ria col­lapsed some years ago, thus mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for res­i­dents of the af­fected com­mu­ni­ties to go to other parts of the state. It has im­pacted neg­a­tively on the econ­omy of the af­fected com­mu­ni­ties and the state in gen­eral,’’ he added.

Onuigbo, who is also the chair­man, House Com­mit­tee on Cli­mate Change, said he was aware of the im­por­tance of the bridge; hence he is mak­ing fran­tic ef­forts to en­sure that it is re­con­structed. He said it was a long over­due pro­ject, which com­ple­tion would im­pact pos­i­tively on the econ­omy of the area and well­be­ing of the peo­ple. He ex­pressed op­ti­mism that the job would be com­pleted be­fore the rains come back fully. An in­di­gene of one of the af­fected com­mu­ni­ties, Mr. Chigozie David, thanked the law­maker for his ef­forts at en­sur­ing that the bridge is re­con­structed.

He af­firmed that the col­lapse of the bridge had brought un­told hard­ship to the peo­ple, say­ing that its re­con­struc­tion would once again bring smiles to their faces as they would be able to trans­port their farm pro­duce to avail­able mar­kets in the state and other parts of the coun­try.

The peo­ple of Elemaga Itunta share so­cio­cul­tural sim­i­lar­i­ties with neigh­bour­ing vil­lages. Some of the cul­tural iden­ti­ties they have in com­mon are Ekpe fes­ti­val, New Yam fes­ti­val, Obono dance, Ekpo masquerade, Okumoko dance and Ubochi Owu (rest­ing mar­ket day). The Nk­woahia (mar­ket day) is reg­u­larly ob­served as a rest­ing day for Elemaga Itunta peo­ple. Ma­jor cer­e­monies like mar­riages, buri­als and dances bear strik­ing re­sem­blance among the peo­ple, in­clud­ing those who live over­seas.

Vil­lagers now find t dif­fi­cult to cross the river

PHO­TOS: Li­nus Ef­fiong

Youths of the com­mu­nity re­mov­ing what is left of the col­lapsed bridge

The make-shift bridge hur­riedly put in place for foot and mo­tor­cy­cle pas­sage

Wa­ter flow­ing un­der what is left of the bridge

Mem­bers of the com­mu­nity as­sess­ing the bridge area

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.