In this exclusive interview with newsmen, the Nigerian Erosion and Watershed Management Project, NEWMAP boss in Abia, Engr. Izuchukwu Onwughara, speaks on the level of implementation of projects by NEWMAP in the state, cost effect, challenges and why Abians should support Governor Ikpeazu in 2019.
WHAT DOES NEWMAP MEAN TO ABIA STATE?
NEWMAP is a World Bank assisted project aimed at reducing poverty and it has a developmental objective to reduce the vulnerability to erosion in the sub catchment areas in response to the challenges of gully erosion and emerging land degradation and environmental insecurity and as a result, a request for assistance was made by Mr. President to the World Bank Nigeria office to support the country in addressing severe erosion and its impacts in Southeast Nigeria.
The Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project Development Objective aims at reducing vulnerability to soil erosion in targeted sub catchment. The eight-year innovative, multi sectoral project will finance State Led Interventions to prevent and reverse land degradation, initially focusing on gully erosion sites that threaten infrastructures and livelihoods in the seven Southern states namely Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, Rivers, Edo and Cross River. Because of its success in these states the project has further scaled out to involve more states to make it twenty.
Abia State was one of the first pilot states where the operation of NEWMAP started in the Southeast following the call to the President of the Federation on the need for the zone to be saved out erosion menace.
In 2012, the Projects started in Abia but was not effective until 2014 when contractors were engaged by the Governor then senator Theodore Orji but the real action started in 2015.
I want to state clearly here that the intervention is owned by the state government and not NDDC as rumored by oppositions but the World Bank provides the fund while the state pays counterpart fund.
The operation is focused and has direction by using a selection process depending on the seriousness of the project. What I mean is that projects are Prioritized subject to the approval of the government’s technical and steering committees.
WHAT ARE THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF THIS INTERVENTION IN THE STATE?
NEWMAP has recorded a huge success in Abia State. Like I said before, by 2012, it hasn’t been effective.
The first projects were Umuezelukwu Nsulu in Isiala Ngwa South Local Government Area of Abia State, Amuzukwu in Umuahia North Council Area, Amuda Achara in Isochi in Umunochi Local Government Area, Dodd Methodist Church Izuakoli in Bende Local Government Area and Eluama Uke in Ohafia in Ohafia Local Government Area. These are Erosion Gullies.
The first three were successfully designed and by 2014, contractors were engaged during the former Governor T. A. Orji Regime. Work commenced in 2016 after compensation were paid. As I speak with you, Umuezelaukwu Nsulu gully erosion project has successfully been completed. That of Amuzukwu is nearing completion. At Amada Achara Isochi, the work is in progress and by March 2019, it would be completed. The project in Umuogele in Umuakwu in Isiala Ngwa North Council Area the Project is at 80% completion. In Umuagu Ibeku and Umuda Isingwu the job there has reached 95% completion including 5km internal roads within the areas that are ongoing.
This intervention is owned by the Abia State government but the World Bank provides the fund. The state also provides other empowerments to communities subject to World Bank approval. The empowerments include poultry farming, fishery, piggery, cassava farming, and other community developmental projects, all in form of corporative societies and the aim was to assuage and reduce abject poverty. The elderly are rehabilitated through a non-refundable grant. Abia South is more of flood than erosion. Urata and Umuagbai flood would be channeled to Aba river. All the design have been approved and early this year, the job would begin. The essence of this is to fight the area against flood.
WHAT THEN ARE YOUR CHALLENGES?
The most challenging aspect of our job was how to meet up with the expectations of the people. In Abia State, by geographical information system mapping, 279 official erosion gullies were recorded and these need attention but the fund was not available. We want increased counterpart funding to enable NEWMAP meet with its obligations. The State NEWMAP has so far drawn up to $25M since its inception. Apart from gully erosion and other degradations, the projects also employ unemployed youths.
WHAT IS YOUR WORD FOR DR OKEZIE IKPEAZU -LED GOVERNMENT COME 2019?
I want to state here that Abia State Government is sensitive to the problems of erosions in Abia State Communities and that is why it does not hesitate to release counterpart funding any time the need arises. As I speak, he has promised the payment of N1B counterpart fund to Newmap and very soon that payment will be made. These and other achievements he has recorded in all sectors of the economy have earned him a return ticket in 2019. I therefore urge the people of Abia to vote for the Peoples Democratic Party again having done so well in the state.