Wednesday 20 January 2016

Amaja: Enugu Border Community In Ruins

Enugu community
For the people of Amaja, a border community in Enugu –Ezike, Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area, Enugu State, their lot has been affliction occasioned by long years of neglect.
Buffeted on every side by underdevelopment, insecurity, lack of basic amenities of life, the people are lying prostrate praying that someday, they would be remembered by the government and their story would change for the better.
Situated 12 kilometers North East of Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area, Amaja shares common boundaries with Ofante in Kogi State in the North, Adupi, Benue State in the East,   Okpo in Igbo-Eze North in the South and Igogoro, Igbo-Eze North in the West.
The community comprises six villages namely Etema, Idobe, Nkpunato, Idoko Ochi, Odu and Ogene.
Known as the last Igbo-speaking community in Enugu-Ezike before Igala in Kogi State, many who describe the community as the end of Enugu State may not be far from the truth judging by the dearth of social amenities needed to make life meaningful.
The community was in the news recently for the wrong reason – the midnight invasion of the homestead of Marcel Abba Ossai by yet to be identified killers who slit the throats of the couple with a sharp knife in their separate bedrooms.
Though, three months after, the perpetrators of the wicked act have not been found, the gruesome murder of both husband and wife turned the rustic village into a destination point for media people and law enforcement agents.
It was in the course of monitoring events over the killings that Oriental News visited the community and saw firsthand the sufferings of the people occasioned by long years of government neglect.
Ordinarily, driving from Ogrute, the headquarters of Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area to Amaja community under good road network may not take more than 20 minutes, but owing to the deplorable condition of the roads, it takes close to two hours to enter the community through so many detours and turns with the use of a motorcycle.
The majority of the people of the community residing in various towns outside the community park their vehicles either at Ogrute or another neigbouring community to either trek home or board a motorcycle.
The road to Amaja is dotted with many gullies, shallow rivers occasioned by flooding that never dries up even in the dry season before the next rainy season catches up with it again.
But for the luxury of few people from the community who were able to purchase the small generators popularly known as I-pass-my-neigbour, many children, elders and youths from the community that have not travelled outside the community would never have seen an electric light in their lifetime not to talk of knowing that it’s possible to use electric power from the public source without the noise of a generating set.
The network service providers also rejected the Amaja causing most phone users in the community to climb trees to access network and make calls  with a cell phone.
Potable water supply is also a rare commodity in the community.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), about 66 million people in Nigeria do not have access to safe water, while over 110 million lack access to improved sanitation.
As a result, about 150,000 children under the age of five are estimated to die annually largely due to diarrhea related diseases that are mostly associated with unsafe drinking water.
In Amaja community, after many years of relying on water sourced and preserved during the rainy season, Oriental News was told that under the local government administration of Chief Chijioke Ugwu, a borehole was dug for the community but the shoddy manner in which it was done at the twilight of the administration makes the engine non-functional most times of the year, leading to acute water scarcity.
Thus mother to infant child mortality is very high in the community since there is no  maternity, health center or hospital in the community.
Narrating the predicament of the people in relation to health matters, Linus Asanya, a middle aged man who lost his beautiful wife, Regina, to the cold hands of death on March 13, 2015 told Oriental News that life was hellish for them in Amaja village.
“My wife was pregnant and the only option was to go to Ogrute the local government headquarters for antenatal care. We went there to register, but knowing the terrain of our community in terms of access roads and means of transportation, it is like warfare whenever any emergency situation occurs.
“Such was my wife’s case because she suddenly went into labour one evening like that. Before we could seek for a commercial cyclist, she started bleeding. We ran helter skelter in search of help but to no avail. There was nowhere or nobody to rush to for quick medical attention. When we finally found our way to Ogrute with all the gullies, gallops, and swimming on the road we had to undergo, my beloved wife died and we came back with her corpse for burial,” he narrated in deep agony.
When Oriental News visited the moribund Amaja Community Basic Health Centre, it was a pitiable sight to behold.
The hospital built in 1983 has been in total ruins for almost two decades now. Already swallowed with a thick bush, the place is now an unhindered breeding ground for wild animals and rodents.
Taking a guided tour of the abandoned hospital, one is apprehensive of being bitten by snakes and other dangerous reptiles since the entrance, the doctor’s consulting rooms, laboratory section, maternity, conveniences, dispensary section, and antenatal clinic and so on were in total ruins.
It evokes tears seeing once beautiful structures reduced to monumental effigy while the people are dying for lack of medical attention.
The traditional ruler of the community, Igwe (Amb) Ignatius Atlas Idoko, the Ohabuike 1 of Amaja told Oriental News in an emotion-laden voice that apart from Regina Asanya earlier reported to have died of complications from childbirth because of absence of medical facilities, another woman, Blessing Ojobor also died recently in such circumstance and they represent many including men and children suffering the same fate.
He said that the most painful aspect of the whole situation was the fact that despite many years of the health centre being moribund, some government staff that do not even visit their community reportedly collect salaries, claiming to be staffers of the centre.
Giving a view of the situation in the community, Igwe Idoko made a passionate appeal to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to put Amaja as one of the topmost community in his priority list.
The traditional ruler said that the community needs at least two police posts for security, at least one tarred road that would link them to the local government headquarters because according to him, driving into their community is an invitation for migraine headache and fixing of the community health centre.
He said that school facilities was another issue in the area and acknowledged the fact that the neglect of their community has been a long standing phenomenon from all the past regimes both military and civilian in Enugu and the old Anambra State.
He, however, expressed optimism and confidence in Ugwuanyi’s leadership to change the situation.
He noted that there was serious political reawakening among his people during the campaigns for election as they voted massively for Ugwuanyi during the polls, adding that they have started counting the day their story would change under the present administration.
The youth leader of the community, Charles Onuh, an Abuja-based businessman while adding his voice to the situation said that there were times when they were asking questions whether they are really part of Enugu State.
He noted that it was not a crime to be in a border community as he gave example of another Enugu -Kogi border community called Etteh which he said that despite the fact that some section of the community were agitating to belong to Kogi, all the basic facilities like schools, health center, courts, police station, electricity and water were provided for them by the Enugu government.
But all hope is not lost as there is really a flicker of hope in the horizon for the people going by what the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Uwakwe Abugu said when contacted by Oriental News.
Abugu pleaded with various communities to have faith and wait for the governor who is barely six months in office to come to their domain.
He noted that there are almost 400 communities in Enugu State with various challenges facing each of them too, but disclosed that the Ugwuanyi administration has already started tackling rural development gradually as part of his four-point agenda.
He disclosed that the administration has already began road construction across different parts of the state even in this time of dwindling revenue, assuring that Amaja just like other areas would not be forgotten.
Source: TheSun

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