Oto-ogu community in Ndokwa East Local Government Area of Delta State is on the edge of the precipice as erosion and other ecological problems ravage the community. It also lacks basic amenities such as asphalted roads, school, potable water and health centre, writes OKUNGBOWA AIWERIE

In its heyday, Oto-ogu community was an important waterfront of huge economic significance on the banks of River Niger.

Aside the fact that it served as outlet for fresh produce from the hinterland, it was also a melting pot of diverse cultures.

In the past, its Nkwo Market Day was the epicentre of trade, even rivalling the Afor Market Day of its now more illustrious neighbour Ogbegonogo Beach that has transformed into a major market at present.

Oto-ogu beach attracted traders from Anam, Igalla and Idoma communities in present day Anambra, Kogi and Benue states respectively.

Major road leading into Oto-ogu
Major road leading into Oto-ogu

According to legend, Ogu, the founder of the community, hails from Aboh Kingdom in present day Ndokwa East Local Government Area. Since then, the community has grown to accommodate several ethnic groups from across the country.

Oto-ogu is multi-ethnic and has a population of over 6, 000 people, including Ibibio, Hausa, Igbo, Igalla and Yoruba. It is, indeed, a classic example of harmonious co-existence of cultures and religions.

Currently, Oto-ogu is a shadow of itself. The vast undulating landscape is sea cellophanes and every other conceivable junk washed down into the slum from Nnebisi Road and its environs.

Despite being located within Asaba Capital Territory, Oto-ogu lacks basic amenities such as asphalted roads, school, potable water and health centre.

For many residents of this sprawling slum, erosion and the menace of the advancing River Niger on its shores remain a major source for concern.

Oto-ogu is sandwiched between Nnebisi Road and River Niger, a rough, dusty debris-strewn patch of land precariously hugging the shoreline between Igbuzor Junction and Lander Brothers Park.

Oto-Ogu suffers on two fronts, on the one hand the loss of shoreline occasioned by the relentless push of the River Niger and on the other hand the havoc caused by erosion.

Due to a non-existent drainage system, deep furrows have been etched into the landscape by prolonged erosion across the entire community.

The popular Nicab Road leading into the community is located on a tortuous, steep gradient filled with gullies sculpted by years of unchecked erosion.

Lining both sides of this narrow dirty road are two clogged concrete gutters that start and end abruptly after about 20 meters into the community.

Interspersed amidst homes with weakened foundations in an inhospitable landscape, are several sturdy trees with gnarled, exposed roots in a vain battle against the deleterious effect of erosion.

Dennis Ogu, a resident and descendant of the founder of the community lamented the deplorable conditions in the community.

According to him, the economic fortunes of Oto-ogu took a turn for the worse after the state government neglected the road leading into the community, stressing that as the gully erosion worsened, economic activities ground to a halt.

He said the community has not benefitted from past governments despite voting en masse for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government in every election since 1999.

His words: “We have not been recognised despite our contributions politically, economically, socially and otherwise. From time to time, our ears have been inundated with plans by governments to construct Nicab Road, but this plan has been on for the past 15 years.

“We led a delegation of elders to Government House. We were informed that the contract for the construction of the road has been awarded.

There is nothing we can boast of here. No road. No water. No school or even a health centre. We are only remembered during elections.”

He further said because the community is situated on a slope and because there is no drainage system, run-off water passes through the community.

Ogu said the erosion has weakened the foundations of many homes, stressing that residents are in dread of their homes being swept away, especially during the rainy season.

He said two major ecological challenges facing the community are the need for an embankment to check the receding shoreline and a construction of Nicab Road with drainage systems that direct run-off water into the River Niger.

He said: “We face severe ecological problems in our community. Due to the advancing River Niger, there is a need to build shoreline protection and build the only road leading into Oto-ogu to check erosion. At this rate, if our ecological problems are left unchecked, Oto-ogu will be no more.”

Noting that the conditions are dire, especially in the rainy season, he said parents keep their children indoors for fear they could be swept away by the raging flood.

Mr. Love Nwokobia, who is the councillor representing Umu-Onaje Ward 6, Oshimili South Local Government Area appealed to the state government to come to their aid, stressing the need for a road is imperative to enable the community to thrive.

He added that the only public primary school was shut down and pupils sent to far away schools.

Nwokobia noted that the economic potential of the community is enormous, stressing that the Oto-ogu beach as tourists’ site if developed, can boost the local economy.

According to him, the Atienu Natural Lake can boost the tourism potential of the local economy.

He said the most pressing need of the residents include constructing Nicab Road and providing potable water.

He said: “We know our needs are many but if government can construct the major road leading into the community and provide potable water; our prayers would have been answered.”

Chairman of the community, Ogbuefi Godwin Odili, an octogenarian, is bitter that successive administrations have neglected the community, adding that erosion which is the major ecological problem is threatening the existence of the community.

He appealed to the state government to address the problems of erosion and the infrastructural deficit in the community.

The Head, Hausa Community, Haruna Abdullahi who speaks fluent Igbo language, said he has lived at Oto-ogu since 1979.

He said prior to the creation of Delta from the defunct Bendel State, fishermen enjoyed material support from government, adding that the present government has neglected them.

Corroborating assertions by other residents, Abdullahi said erosion remains the major challenge facing the community, stressing that a tarred road with drains will check the erosion menace.

Director-General, Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency, Mrs. Onyeameachi Mrakpor urged the leadership of the community to engage government on issues affecting them.

On the abandoned Nicab Road contract, Mrakpor urged that the community leadership should investigate who the contractor is, why the contract was abandoned and working with the Ministry of Works to get the administration revoke the contract.

Her words: “If they lack basic amenities, they should work with their councillor to bring the matter to the attention of government.

The leadership of Oto-ogu should put some efforts into investigating the issue, go to the Ministry of Works and find out the status of the contract.

If they reach the conclusion the contractor is unserious, the contract can be revoked. The community must reach out as nobody spoon-feeds anyone anymore.”

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