By Saheed Ibrahim
After many years of being bedevilled by the ravaging sea incursion into Ayetoro community in Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo state, the residents can be hopeful their dreaded days are coming to an end as the Ondo State Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) has commenced operation in the coastal town, after Governor Rotimi Akeredolu secured the help of the World Bank to construct an embankment to protect the community.
The Hope visited the people of Ayetoro community, nicknamed “The Happy City” who for many years slept with one eye closed; not because of bandits, as experienced in some parts of the country but their worst fear is the Atlantic Ocean that continues to erode the community for many years.
The incursion, which has become a constant occurrence in the community have claimed more than 70 percent of the community landmass. As detailed by the Secretary General of the community, Otunba Dele Kudehinbu, the community which had a population of 26,000 people in the last National Census had been depleted as residents continue to flee to other towns for shelter.
According to the Deputy to the Ogeloyinbo of Ayetoro, Arch Bishop, Eremibo Eretan, said that during a calamitous incursion that happened late 2019, over 200 buildings were lost and property worth billions of naira were destroyed. The erosion never stops; it has continued to submerge the community on a daily basis.
The cause of the incessant sea incursion, as revealed by the community leaders and the Chairman Ilaje LGA, Mr Otitoju Atikase, is due to oil exploration on the Atlantic Ocean by oil firms, who had any concern for the safety and health of the community members.
Failed Efforts on Embankment Project
According Bishop Eretan, the embankment project had been awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to two different contractors in the past years but none of them executed the project.
“They just awarded the contract and we just see people coming to say that the contract has been awarded but we have not seen anything. Some of them will dump some quantities of sand and we will not see them again.”
He disclosed that the two contracts cost about N9billion but the community still remained prey to the sea.
A visit to the bank of the sea revealed that there were contractors who came to work in the community in the past. There were about three abandoned machines at the bank, a long pipe that was used to convey sand and some black rubber bags, which the sea has rendered useless.
The role of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu
Concerned by the incessant destruction of property and economic activities in the community and the imminent danger the incursion poses to Ilaje Local Government Area at large, Governor Akeredolu approached the World Bank for assistance to construct an embankment and reclaim the community from the ravaging sea.
As the Chairman of Ilaje LGA disclosed to The Hope, the constant sea incursion into Ayetoro will cause a great danger to all the communities in the Local Government area if not promptly checked.
He said, “The future implication of the sea having access to the fresh water is that the moment the sea breaks through Ayetoro, it will contaminate the water and make Ilaje unsafe.
“Beyond Ayetoro, there is another danger coming in Awoye. In fact, the sea is already having incursion into the fresh water. You can no longer differentiate the fresh water from the sea water now in Awoye, likewise Abereke.
“Abereke and Awoye have the same features – as Awoye is in Ugbo, Abereke is in Mahin. Both of them are experiencing serious sea incursion
“The sea has already circulated the environments and it has gain entrance into the communities and they are moving on. The danger is that by the time it continues, it will get to a level where Igbokoda, the Headquarter of the local government will be wiped off and that is the end of Ilaje Local Government”.
With this imminent danger in view, Governor Akeredolu led a team on a courtesy visit to The World Bank Country Director, Rachid Benmessaud in Abuja in a bid to finding solution to the menace.
It was reported that the Governor pointed out the dangers the incessant erosion pose to the people of the state, stressing the need for speedy approval of funds to effectively tackle the challenged. As disclosed by the Permanent Secretary, Ondo State Ministry of Environment, Mr Tayo Adeniyi, the state Governor secured the approval and support of the World Bank for the project.
The Coming of NEWMAP and Hope for the People
At the visit of Governor Akeredolu to the World Bank Headquarter in Abuja, it was learnt that he indicated interest in the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed management Project (NEWMAP) to handle the project.
At the approval of the appeal for assistance, Ondo NEWMAP began monitoring and execution of the project in the area. This heralded the beginning of hope for the people of the “Happy City.”
The engineering design of the project was done by Etteh Aro and Partners. So far, other activities such as boring and recovering of soil samples for laboratory analysis, survey on water for chemical analysis, biological sample collection of the sea floor, data collection from the community among others have started.
Also, the community members and leaders have been met and data collection had been done. This was confirmed by the Chairman, Board of Registered Trustees of the Holy Apostles, Baba Jeseri Iwasanmi Ajijo. He expressed hope that the embankment project will be completed as soon as possible in order to save the people from the devastating effect of the sea incursion.
Officials from the Federal Ministry of Environment had visited the community for assessment of the situation; a visit that boosted the completion of the project.
In an interview with the Ondo State NEWMAP Coordinator, Mr Marcus Adewodun, who appreciated Governor Akeredolu for the confidence reposed in Ondo NEWMAP team to handle the project, said that project was progressing as expected and it would be completed in the shortest possible time.
In a separate interviews with The Hope, the community members, some of which are Mr Bankole Joshua, Mr Victor Akinlua and Mrs Ajibowu Iromidayo, could not hide their joy as they shower praises on Governor Akeredolu for the intervention, hoping that the project would be completed as soon as possible for them to sleep with both eyes closed again.
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