Sir (Dr) Patrick Sule Ugboma(Ide of Ogbaru) -Leading the war against flood in Ogbaru
The people of Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra state, had for several years endured the horrible effects of flood in the area, but today, there is a groundswell of demand on the state and federal governments to find a lasting solution to the menace, writes Mike Ubani
It was 12 noon on Thursday, August 10, 2023. The sky was dull and overcast. Mrs. Ujunwa Akpati, a teacher at Shining Light Academy, Odekpe, in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State, was apprehensive that it might rain heavily in the community.
Though rainfall in most communities in Igboland is regarded as a blessing, it is, however, seen as a curse in the entire Ogbaru town especially if the rain comes in torrents. The reason is not far-fetched.
Ogbaru, a town that has a reputation for being the food basket of the country is prone to perennial flood which washes away roads, bridges, farms, schools, churches and residential houses.
Ogbaru clan is made up of 15 indigenous communities. They are Odekpe Ohita, Atani, Akili Ozizor, ochuche Umuodu, Umuzu, Amiyi, Ogbakuba.
Others are Mputu, Umunankwo, Ogwuaniocha; Ossomala; Obeagwe; Akili Ogidi; Ogwuikpele, and one non-indigenous community).
The communities have one thing in common – They lie along the coasts of River Niger – the third longest River in Africa.
Besides, the communities are rich in agricultural produce – cultivating and harvesting enough crops to feed the nation, such as yam, cassava, maize, rice, potato, beans and okro.
Also, Ogbaru hosts the eight viable oil wells in Anambra State, a development that has naturally and logically caused Anambra to be admitted into the enviable league of oil producing states.
Residents crossing river by wooden canoe
However, the proximity of Ogbaru to River Niger makes it susceptible to flood especially when the river overflows its banks, and there has been several incidents of flooding in the area over the years – with its accompanying devastation of farmlands, buildings, roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, and churchesOne of the landmark establishments in Ogbaru recently destroyed by flood is the multibillion-naira automated Matucci Farms Limited located at Agbobo Umuoga Ossomala community, leading to the shutting down of the company.
Addressing journalists at Ossomala, the Director of the farm, Sir (Dr) Patrick Sule Ugboma (Ide of Ogbaru) disclosed that the farm lost about 25,000 poultry birds to the recent flood in the area, while properties worth several millions of naira were also destroyed.
According to him, about 400 workers of the company lost their jobs following the flood disaster, adding that this development has adversely affected the economy of Ogbaru in particular, and the state in general.
Recall that a major flood disaster which struck Ogbaru clan in 2022 led to the loss of lives, and submerging of farmlands, residential buildings, schools, churches and health facilities.
Sunday Mesiobi, 70, a native of Ogbe-Akpoma, Atani community was reportedly found dead in his abode following a deluge that surged into his house and drowned him apparently while he was asleep.
That was not all. A fatal boat mishap which occurred at Umunnakwo community that same year and period, claimed 76 lives. The victims were reportedly escaping from the menacing flood that swept through various Ogbaru communities when the boat in which they were travelling in capsized.
Meanwhile, basic infrastructure in Ogbaru especially roads, bridges, electricity, schools, and farmlands have been destroyed due to the constant flooding of the area, and other ecological challenges; eliciting appeals by Ogbaru people to both the state and federal governments; relevant government agencies, to come to their rescue.
For instance, on behalf of the community, Sir Ugboma passionately urged the Niger Delta Development Commission (N.D.D.C) to consider the construction of the Onitsha-Atani-Ossomala-Ogwuikpele-Ase Azaga-Ndoni Road, which is in a state of total collapse.
Sir Ugboma noted that “this vital economic impactful road will link the Ogbaru LGA in Anambra State with their kith and kin in Delta, Imo and Rivers States,” stressing that the agriculture, which is the main stay of the people’s economic life has suffered unduly by the neglect of the community by successive state and Federal Governments.
“The Ogbaru people in Anambra, Delta, Rivers and Imo constitute the food basket of these states and the central road connecting the clan, the Onitsha – Atani – Ossomala – Ogwuikpele – Ase azaga – Ndoni road is in total collapse. We therefore presently find it extremely difficult to move our cash crops from the farms to the hinterland,” he lamented.
He explained that Ogbaru, in generic terms, is a clan of people of identical culture, language and way of life, remarking that the people, who are mainly spread along the coasts of the River Niger and across the four states are mainly farmers and fishermen.
Ossomala Bridge, destroyed by flood
While remarking that the communities in Ogbaru are largely agrarian, the community leader, and renowned philanthropist regretted that although the terrain is very fertile for crop production and fishing, the area is very prone to perennial flooding due to its proximity to the River Niger.
“These perennial floods have badly affected farming activities and further impoverished the people. Most of the communities have become inaccessible due to the decrepit state of the only road leading into all the communities.
“Furthermore, about a half of these communities have been in total darkness for upwards of ten years in most cases. Ogbaru Local Government has been totally neglected by successive Local, State and Federal Governments despite its food-basket status.
Failed portion of Onitsha-Atani-Ossomala Road…..
“It is equally noteworthy that Ogbaru hosts the eight viable oil wells in Anambra State which had conferred Oil- producing status of the state. Despite the oil revenue accruable to Anambra State from the Ogbaru Oil Wells, basic infrastructure is nearly non-existent, the few existing ones are in total collapse, while poverty among the people is on continuous, upward rise,” he cried out.
Meanwhile, to obviate the incidence of constant flooding of the area, Sir Ugboma further called on the federal government to dig canals in Ogbaru capable of sucking water from River Niger, saying this project will ultimately serve as a source of irrigation for Ogbaru people.
According to him, this same project could be replicated for the benefit of those living along River Niger and River Benue, and the coastal regions of South-South and South-West.
According to our Correspondent who visited the area, some portions of the Onitsha-Atani, Ossomala-Ogwuikpele-Ase azaga-Ndoni road, have failed, while several bridges on that same road especially the Ossomala bridge at Umunnakwo community, have collapsed following a combination of flooding and erosion menace.
Residents going either to Ogwuikpele from Umunnakwo or travelling from Ogwuikpele to neighbouring communities were seen crossing the river by wooden boats following the collapse of the Umunnakwo bridge.
Some residents who spoke to our Correspondent wondered why despite being the food basket of the country, as well as an oil producing area, both the state and federal governments had over the years neglected Ogbaru town.
“Ogbaru people have been marginalized for too long by the state and federal governments. We don’t have good road network; our communities have been despoiled by flood, and all this marginalization is taking place despite our being food and oil producing areas,” laments Chief Daniel Nwabueze, a community leader in Atani,
Chief Daniel Nwabueze(m) Communty leader in Atani: Ogbaru has been marginalised for too long
Chief Nwabueze urged the federal government to repair the dilapidated roads in Ogbaru, as well as dredge the River Niger to obviate the flooding of the area due to the overflow of the river during heavy rainfall.
He also called on the Anambra state government to promptly supply yam seedlings, and other farming implements to farmers in the area to boost agricultural production.
“Since we are a food producing area, the Anambra state government should come to our rescue by giving us money to farm; give us farming incentives on time. We don’t want government to give us mattresses, pillow, bread, rice, each time we have flood here in Ogbaru. We want net to catch fish since we’re fishermen.
Mrs. Akpati, also complained about the yearly flood that wreaks havoc in the community, especially the destruction of farmlands, roads and houses, saying this has deeply affected the economy of the clan.
She said, “even though we produce yam, cassava, pepper beans, rice in large quantities, we don’t have good roads to take our farm produce to the markets, and this development has impoverished both farmers and residents here,”
“We are having serious problem of flood in this area. About this time las year, everybody living in this community (Odekpe) relocated to the upland because the flood we witnessed then submerged several buildings and farmlands. And so, we’re calling on the government to come to our rescue.”
Agbogo Umuoga Ossomala
In the same vein, Chief Okwudili Ozegbe, chairman, Odekpe Community Vigilante, decried the longstanding neglect of the area by both the federal and state governments.
He appealed to the two levels of government to come to the rescue of the town by finding a lasting solution to the constant flooding of the area as well rebuilding the dilapidated roads in Ogbaru LGA.to enable farmers convey their farm produce to neighbouring towns.
“We are facing several challenges in this community, but the major ones are flood and bad roads, and so we are appealing to the federal and state governments to come to our rescue.
Part of multibillion naira Matucci Farm destroyed by flood
“We are farmers and also fishermen, but unfortunately we’re unable to carry our farm and aquatic produce to Onitsha market and the various markets in our neighboring communities due to bad road,” Chief Ozegbe bemoaned.
Indeed, there is an urgent need to salvage what is left of Ogbaru town, and only governments prompt intervention can heal the wounds.