In several locations in Edo State, monstrous gully erosion had ravaged communities, leaving in their wake – lost lives, devastated homes and severely dislocated socio-economic activities of the people. For the Ugbeson and Asoro communities in Benin City where the Queen Ede and Ekehuan flood and gully erosion sites respectively are located ; as well as residents around the Oshiobugie flood and gully erosion site in Auchi, Ewu and Ibore, it had been harrowing experiences and tales of woes for several decades in the face of neglect and betrayal by governments they had trusted. These communities and several others were not spared the adverse effects of gully erosion.
The Queen Ede gully erosion site had been particularly menacing as it had claimed lives, destroyed homes and school buildings; as well as streets in the over two decades that the erosion had persisted. Experts blame its cause on ‘design error’ on the Agbor-Benin Expressway, which abruptly terminated drains from the constructed highway into the affected lands. However, succour came to the various communities courtesy of the decisive action of Edo State Government, which succeeded in garnering World Bank facility through the Federal Government to combat the gully menace that had continued to threaten communities in the State.
Edo State is not alone in flood and gully erosion problems in the country. In several other states, gully erosion has become a ravaging phenomenon which by the day wipes out communities as soon as the rains begin. Some of these gullies have depths in excess of 50 meters and width running into hundreds of meters. A variety of causes have been attributed to the scourge some of which range from natural causes to outright human activities.
The gravity of gully erosion across states in the country thus engaged the attention of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Federal Ministry of Environment, which in joint efforts with the affected States, sought and received partnership from the World Bank to tackle the menace. Such urgent international intervention manifested in the inception of the Nigerian Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP). The NEWMAP initiative is an integrated watershed management scheme with an investment focus on gully erosion prevention and rehabilitation. It involves State and Federal ministries , departments and agencies as well as Local Governments, communities and the Civil Society to thus underscore its multi-sectoral implementation strategy. Edo State is one of the pioneer seven States of the Federation, now twenty-two States, benefitting from the Project implementation.
On Friday, February 6, 2015, Edo State NEWMAP was officially launched with the flag-off of civil works in Queen Ede and Auchi gully remediation works by the then Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. “When we first noticed this problem several years ago, you could easily stride across the erosion (Queen Ede site) with your two legs but it increased every rainy season and before you knew it, it began to swallow streets, homes, and school blocks and then claimed lives. “Half of the classroom blocks of the Queen Ede Secondary School have been destroyed by the ravaging gully erosion”, Mr. Monday Edonwonyi, a resident of Ugebeson Community lamented. Governor Oshiomhole’s reassurance at the launch that the destroyed school will be re-built again by the State Government once the reclamation of the site was completed received a thunderous ovation from the residents who had came to witness the flag-off ceremony.
On its part, the Oshiobugie Flood and Gully Erosion site in Auchi occupies a large area of land stretching from Warrake Road to Auchi-Igarra Road and its origins are said to be the flood waters draining from the sloppy terrain to the Orle River. Several areas of the town had been devastated by the gully erosion over these years and ancestral homes abandoned!
Prince Clement Agba, former Edo State Commissioner of Environment and Public Utilities; and pioneer Chairman of the State Steering Committee of NEWMAP, on his part stressed that the construction designs for the three sites had been painstakingly made to ensure that the rehabilitation work stood the test of time. Gov. Oshiomhole reinforced this view when he said that the contractors selected for the projects met the very stringent competency conditions of the World Bank and were trusted to deliver promptly and satisfactorily.
Gov Oshiomhole disclosed that the State Government had met its own share of counterpart funding for the Project, while thanking the World Bank for being responsive enough to the State Government’s critical needs.
Prof. Aduwa Ogiegbaen, Vice- Chancellor University of Education, Ekiadolor, Benin, who is the Enogie of Ogbeson Community where the Queen Ede gully erosion site is located, described the State Government’s intervention through the assistance of the World Bank as most salutary.
“We have waited for this momentous occasion for 25 years during which we witnessed three failed interventions by dubious contractors who compounded our problems. Contractors who came to the site to work didn’t have a single pail-loader to work with. They just idled there and abandoned it thereafter. As you can see, we have lost lives, houses, school blocks and streets to this ravaging erosion”, the Enogie said.
On the durability of the project upon completion , Dr. Amos Abu, the Task Team Leader of NEWMAP at the World Bank Office in Nigeria, said that what was on ground for actualization was the “finest engineering design”, adding that the choice of contractors was transparently made, which ensured the selection of the best. According to him, “we did not receive any form of interference or pressure from the State Government or anyone whatsoever ”. He urged the community members to expect the best from the projects as it can never be “business as usual”.
While on a State visit to Edo on November 7, 2016, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari inspected the Queen Ede remediation works and was obviously delighted and satisfied with the intervention.
Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki has since taken up the NEWMAP initiative in Edo State with much zeal and dynamism characteristic of his style of governance.
Beyond the civil works in the various gully sites, NEWMAP has effectively paid compensation to Project Affected Persons (PAPs) and provided grants to Community Interest Groups (CIGs) for investment in Small and Medium Enterprises.
In about three years after the official flag-off, Edo State NEWMA P has recorded monumental achievements. In Ogbeson (Queen Ede), Ekehuan and Oshiobugie – Auchi communities, pain, misery and frustration have given way to joy, hope and good life. In Ewu and Ibore where civil works is on-going, there is excitement, there is jubilation.
This special publication highlight s , succinctly and pictorially, the success story of EdoS tate NEWMAP and the views of relevant stakeholders, with particular reference to Ekehuan, Queen Ede and shiobugie-Auchi gully remediation works.