Anyama community teacher in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, Alice Adibo, has explained how coastal erosion in the area almost drowned her and her children in her father’s house when they were asleep.
Bayelsa is being ravaged by coastal erosion, annual flooding, oil pollution, and indiscriminate logging or deforestation. Environmental rights activists are even urging local governments to rise to the occasion through proper documentation and related actions.
In her moving testimony, Alice said, ‘’our condition is very bad in this community. The erosion is worrying us too much. My parents had a seven-bedroom house and, we were in the house the day erosion took the building. My children and I were sleeping in the night when I suddenly heard a strange sound.
‘’One of my daughters ran to me and said, ‘mummy are you hearing any noise?’ I woke up and sat on the bed and asked, ‘what is that?’ The sound became much severe and so I urged all the children to wake up quickly because erosion is cutting our house.
‘’Right before us, we saw the seven rooms building cutting away. We couldn’t save our belongings; all washed into the river. If not that we were fortunate, lives could have been lost.
‘’Just last week too, we were in the school when we heard noise in the direction of the river. We rushed to see what was happening and, it was the erosion. A four-room building was washed away.
‘’So, I am begging government to help us by coming to do a shoreline protection for us. Since we lost our house and I don’t have money to build another house, we are managing at the secondary school. Government should help me.’’
Findings by HausaToday tend to show that local governments in the state are not taking any appreciable steps to tackle the major ecological challenges confronting communities in the state.
For Morris Alagoa, a Field Monitoring Officer with Environmental Rights Action (ERA), ‘’local governments should work closely with communities and link up with other tiers of government and development partners.’’
There are several communities suffering the negative impacts of coastal erosion in the state, with Anyama community in Ogbia Local Government Area standing out as one of the worst hit.
Anyama community is situated along the Ekoli River, a major tributary of the Nun River. The community could only be accessed through the river/creeks on marine crafts or by helicopter.
Some of the neighbouring communities of Anyama includes: Otuedu, Ologoghe, Okiki, Otuobhi, Otuekpein, Otuaganagu and Okodi.
Recently, the community experienced landslides that washed away much of its land into the river.
So far, over 500 houses have been eroded as erosion is exposing the community to untold hardship.
Narrating their ordeal, a 65-years-old chief, Ase Humphrey, said ‘’Anyama coastal erosion is as old as Anyama itself. Right from when I was born till now, almost about one kilometer has been eroded. Apart from our land and houses, there are other facilities which government has established in this community that has been lost to erosion.
‘’They include a court yard, which was established around 1935. Also, the St. James Anglican Church, established in 1910 has been taken away by the erosion. Even the primary school, there were two structures, one has been eroded away. Then, the oil mill which was established in 1955 is also at the verge of being washed away by the ravaging erosion.
‘’A rice mill established in 1977 or thereabout has also been eroded. The general post office, established in 1935 has been washed away. Police stations and other government institutions established here are all being eroded away.
‘’As for the jetties, three of them are all now in the river. As for houses lost to erosion, they are uncountable. The old, original Anyama has been eroded away long ago. I started experiencing this erosion as a child. Like my father’s house; it has long gone into the river.
‘’Many people here cannot build houses because there is no land again and it is expensive. Land used to be given freely to relations in the past, but now a plot of land goes for N200,000. We don’t sell land before this time. Some natives are staying outside the community due to the impact of this erosion.
‘’We have tried to reach the authorities and relevant agencies of government, but no positive response. Our appeal to government now is that they should come to our aid; we are dying.’’
Speaking on the ecological menace, Secretary of the community, Aleibharola Potency Owei, said ‘’coastal erosion is our problem. Anyama Ogbia was founded in 1655. The coastal erosion has exposed us to hardship, untold hardship. People are suffering. Over 500 houses have been eroded away.
‘’Some people cannot come to the community because of this coastal erosion. They have decided to stay in Yenagoa and build their houses there. No one would be happy in a situation whereby after spending millions to build, houses are washed away.
‘’Just two weeks ago, part of our land was taken away again by the erosion. We are calling on the government and all stakeholders to come to our aid; we are suffering. The erosion is killing us and we are begging for help. A shoreline protection contract was awarded to Dredging International Company by the NDDC some years ago but we have not seen anything positive. They are nowhere to be found.
‘’The state government, NDDC and Federal Government should ensure that the shoreline protection contract awarded to Dredging International Company is activated to save our lives and property.’’
A 71years old lady, Mercy Seibofa, has this to say: ‘’Due to this coastal erosion I have lost several farms and farmlands. It is a major problem and source of concern to us in this community. Our people have tried, they even met with former President Goodluck Jonathan; yet nothing has come out of our efforts.’’
A member representing Brass State Constituency 2 in the state House of Assembly, Timi Agala-Omubo, recently moved a motion on the floor of the House, in connection with the threat posed by coastal erosion to Odioama community and others in his constituency.
The state government has already awarded a contract in connection with the erosion eating off Obogoro community, in Yenagoa Local Government Area. This, it is hoped would be implemented to a logical conclusion.
In the meantime, ERA is demanding that Niger Delta Development Commission [NDDC] and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs should take practical steps to effectively tackle the threat by embarking on shoreline protection in affected communities
Bayelsa State Government should establish a Flood and Erosion Commission or Agency to frontally deal with the twin Environmental/Ecological challenges facing our people. Such a body should be empowered by law to effectively collaborate with Federal Government interventionist agencies and international development partners.