The people of Ekwetekwe/Ogbuinyagu community are mostly peasant farmers, that grow yams, plantain, cocoyam and other food crops, though some natives are favoured with white collar jobs.
Given the lack of access road, the community members were unable to transport their agricultural produce to the urban areas for sale to the prospective buyers for several decades.
This, was caused by the severe gully erosion that threatened farmlands and residential buildings in the community.
However, the community heaved a sigh of relief when the federal government awarded contract for the construction of erosion-control works including a 5.5-kilometre road in the locality.
It was one of the 23 ecological intervention projects approved by President Muhammadu Buhari for the 4th quarter of 2018 and awarded on 16th November, 2018 by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
At the commissioning and handing over of the project by the Ecological Fund Office (EFO) in Ebonyi recently, President Muhammadu Buhari noted that it was designed to address the challenges of soil erosion and flood that had impacted the community for several years.
He disclosed that the successful completion of the project would improve the standard of living and mitigate the challenges associated with soil erosion and flooding that had plagued the community for decades.
The President, who was represented by the minister of Science and technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu was optimistic that the project would enhance socio-economic activities for the community members in this era of accelerated nation building.
Also speaking, the permanent secretary of EFO, Dr Habiba Lawal said that the project was initiated as part of the Presidential Intervention Programmes (PIP) for the ecological-impacted communities in Nigeria.
She hinted that the aim of the project was to restore the environment and socio-economic activities in the affected communities, just as she commended the project contractor and consultant for working tirelessly to ensure the timely completion of the project in line with the implementation schedule.
Lawal, who was represented by a deputy-director in EFO, Mrs Esther Kolawole was hopeful that the intervention would provide the enabling environment for the impacted communities to bounce back to their former vocations and means of livelihood.
She maintained that the commissioning and handover of the project would serve the dual purpose of enabling the host community to take over and exercise ownership of the project, as well as discouraging dumping of solid waste along the waterways.
Lending his voice, the traditional ruler-elect of Ekwetekwe/Ogbuinyagu autonomous community, Chief Samuel Offiagu appreciated President Buhari for the numerous developmental policies and programmes across the country, including the construction of the second Niger bridge and series of social intervention programme at a time the COVID-19 pandemic and social instability led to economic recession.
He lauded the President’s efforts at revamping the economy through the declaration of a state of emergency in the agricultural sector, as a panacea to achieving the economic diversification policy and aggressive rural development.
The secretary of Local Education Authority (LEA), Ezza North local government area, Hon Cajetan Nworie, who read the traditional ruler’s speech, was hopeful that the erosion-control project boosted the economic activities of ‘his people’, having created a gateway for the evacuation of agricultural products from the hinterland to urban areas.
He added that the project also promoted social integration by linking the community with neighbouring communities, just as he commended the federal government for the ongoing construction of a modern skills acquisition centre in the community.
Offiagu requested the speedy completion of the project, which he believed would empower the youths by curbing unemployment and other social unrest.
According to him, “Despite the completion of the 5.5 kilometers road, the community is still caught off from her main town, Umuezeoka due to the ravaging erosion that had rendered the rural areas to a deplorable condition”.
To this end, he pleaded for more interventions and opening of rural roads so as to be connected to other communities and existing facilities in the area.
Also, the EFO project manager, Sir Uwem Useh said the project was supposed to be completed within six month but was extended to one year due to the raining season and salty nature of the land.
He assured that the specified materials were used during the construction.
Presenting the scope of the project, the consultant, Mr Funso Fashipe said that it included triple cell culvert of 21 × 9m, 2 ring culverts, 1 double ring culvert, 2 box culverts and 5.4 kilometers road improvement works.
He pleaded on behalf of the community, that the federal government should award contract for the second phase of the project in order to benefit the neighbouring community.
One of the community members, Chief Williams Nwankwo Alo hinted that before the project, Ekwetekwe was missing in the map of Nigeria but was made visible after the completion of the project.
Alo, who is also the permanent secretary, federal ministry of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs Abuja, added that it was tedious for farmers to transport their agricultural produce before the project, as many of them decayed before sales.
He asserted that the skills acquisition project, which is almost 90 percent completed would cripple the endless search for white collar jobs, as it would reduce unemployment and insecurity.