The Chief, women, youths and opinion leaders of Obogoro community situated along the Ikoli River in Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State are calling the attention of both the Federal and State Governments to come to their aid as their community is being threatened by erosion that is gradually pushing them to the brink of extinction.
An independent visit by FELLOW PRESS to the community that is a few minutes drive away from the Government House, Yenagoa, to verify claims that several buildings have been lost to an annual erosion, reveals that a school building, Jetty, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members lodge and several houses have been washed into the Ikoli River.
The National Youth Service Corps members’ lodge (Corper’s lodge), appeared miserable and helpless as part of the building has been washed into the river, while handy men had pulled off roofing sheets and woods from the building, in a bid to save them for future use.
Also, the community primary school that served as a ground where children from within and outside the community acquire basic education had also been abandoned because essential parts of the facility, including Headmaster’s Quarter, football field and several classrooms have been washed into the Ikoli River by the erosion.
It was also learnt that since St. Paul Primary School, located in Famgbe, a neighbouring community, that would have served as an alternative for pupils has long been was
hed into the river, children from Obogoro are now being forced to travel far to acquire basic education.
Reports also have it that farmlands with crops worth hundreds of thousands of Naira have been lost to the erosion, having adverse effects on the economic livelihood of the people of the Obogoro community, and that in spite of several letters written to the Government over the challenges they face, respite is yet to come their way.
In an interview with FELLOW PRESS, the Paramount Ruler of the community, HRH Monday Igodo, said, ‘’right now, our primary school is seriously affected. We have lost the Corpers Lodge to erosion. The river banks are eroding, and eroding very fast. The Corpers lodge that was very far from the bank of the river is now affected, forcing us to abandon it.
“Well, some of these environmental problems are natural, while some are man-made. Our own is a natural occurrence and not man-made. It has been there, and we have written to many people, even to the Federal Government to come to our aid over this erosion issue but nothing has been done. We are like a people who live in water but are forced to use our saliva to have our bath daily.
“Another troubling issue we have is that we can see electricity from across the bridge where Government House is located, but we have not had it in two years. Just imagine, Akaba community has light, Famgbe community has light, but we that are trapped in the middle of these two communities have not had light for two years.
“This goes to explain the level of abandonment we suffer in the hands of government. As a community, we have tried our best to help ourselves by repairing the transformer, but it has failed to work. You know that anywhere there are is light, businesses thrives. And where businesses thrives, there is peace.
“So as a community, we are worried about the prolonged blackout and erosion problems we are experiencing because our youths who engage themselves in trades like welding, hair dressing, sewing, electronic and electrical works are now idle. And our worry is that we don’t want a situation where their idle minds would turn into the devil’s workshop. So we need government’s assistance urgently.”
Also speaking, the secretary of the community’s council of chiefs, Chief Unenadu Igwele, said ‘’The erosion has been our problem for over two decades. And it came gradually, starting from the Famgbe end, a neighbouring community. It has eaten deep into Famgbe and driven that community into the swamps.
“And that is what is going to happen to us if nothing is done about the erosion. Unfortunately, in our own case, at the face of this development, we don’t even have where to shift to. Everywhere is occupied now.”
Recounting her experience of the disaster, the women leader of Obogoro community, Chief Patience Amagbopere said, ‘’When I was newly married into this community, walking from the waterside to the school house was a long distance. But now you can see everything here, even the goal post is being shifted again and again towards the school, as other parts of the facility have gone into the river.
“You can see the Corpers’ lodge here being de-roofed. We want to appeal, as a people, people of Bayelsa and as a mother, I don’t have any other faith. I am begging, pleading and crying, that the state government, even the Federal Government should look into our plights. We are begging. After this time, our children would not be able to attend school here because we are afraid that most of them don’t know how to swim.
Expressing fears that his father’s house may soon give way for the devastating erosion, the Obogoro youths secretary, Comrade Inisom Amabopre, said, “the situation I find myself is pathetic. The erosion is affecting us badly. The first house built by my father had been washed into the river by the erosion few years back. As you can see the new one my father built to cover our heads is at the edge of the river bank and would soon be washed away in a matter of months.
“Our community is pleading to the state and federal government to come to our rescue because after the flood will soon come, when you return to our community, you will certainly not see many houses you’ing today. They would be washed away by erosion if nothing is done urgently.”
Giving an insight into how the prolonged electricity blackout has affected socioeconomic activities in the community, the Vice President of the Youths Council, Miss Onotime Nelson explained that, “for almost two years now Obogoro community has been in what could be called a total blackout.
“If you walk from the beginning of the community to the end, you would see that many stores are closed because we have not seen electricity for a long time. As I speak with you, I run a business that depends on electricity to thrive and the fact that we don’t have power supply is affecting my business badly.”