Mrs. Rachael Ugwueze lived in Breme community, Nsukka local government area of Enugu state. She is married to Linus Ugwueze, a farmer and native of the community. She is crayfish seller who goes from one local market to the other to sell her wares.
Seven years ago, she nearly lost her life to protracted labour during childbirth. It was her first child birth, and so never knew she had pelvic issue.
Before she could get proper medical care, she was already worn out. But fortunately, she was taken to one of the hospitals in Nsukka where she had her caeserean section safely. After the incident, she and her husband relocated to Nsukka town.
But Mrs. Agnes Odo was not that lucky. She had typhoid and malaria as explained by her husband George Odo. Before she could receive proper medical care, she was already weak. She died on her way to hospital at Nsukka town.
The above incidents are typical of Breme community in Nsukka local government area of Enugu state. Tucked away about thirty kilometres from Nsukka, the headquarters of Nsukka local government area, the community is indeed living like people in refugee camp.
When WITHIN NIGERIA visited the community, there was no visible presence of either Federal, state or the local government in the area. There is no any infrastructural development; no road, pipe borne water or electricity in the area.
One of the community dwellers, Michael Eze who spoke to our reporter explained that he was not happy with the level of deprivation the community is passing through.
‘ I studied in this community primary school and secondary school here. But look at the situation now. The two schools have collapsed and the students have been tranfered to neighbouring schools to continue their education.”
Narrating further, Mr. Eze stated that many of these students trek more than three kilometres every day to go to school. Many of them who cannot afford to pay the exorbitant price of private schools have dropped out of school.”
Another community dweller, Mr. Sabastine Ona told WITHIN NIGERIA that the situation has become so much unbearable.
“Look at that secondary school. It has produced so many Engineers and Medical experts yet it has been left to collapse. I wouldn’t say that teachers are not posted here. They are posted. But the problem we have with the teachers here is that they don’t like to stay in our community. This is because there is lack of social amenities: no road,no electricity, and no pipe borne water.
Lamenting further, Mr. Onah told our reporter that “ even the hospital we have isn yet to get staff and medicines. So, we are living as if these social amenities are not meant for us.”
In the same vein, living in Odenigbo Eha-Amufu, a proposed autonomous community in Isi-Uzo Local Government Area of Enugu State, is literally like living in abject neglect and deprivation.
For a community that boasts a population of 15,000 but with no visible presence of either local, state or federal government, apart from a dilapidated migrant primary school, the people here are, indeed, living in inexplicable deprivation.
Travelling to the community is like making a journey into hell. Whether one is making the journey in rainy or dry season , the story is still the same – the roads are a no-go area for motorists. In rainy season, the road leading to other communities is submerged in water thereby completely cutting Odenigbo off from its neighbouring communities. In dry season, the roads are covered with overgrown grasses.
However, when WITHIN NIGERIA visited the community, it was observed that Odenigbo, a boundary community with Benue State, has no pipe-borne water, no electricity, no hospital no health centre, no government secondary School, no good access road and indeed no government presence.
The only government primary school they have is dilapidated. To cap it all, there is no network operator mast to feed the community. So, they get virtually everything from Benue State, so much so that one of the community dwellers who spoke to our reporter under anonymity, revealed that of recent, some youths in the community have rekindled their agitation to be allowed to opt out of Enugu State and join Benue State!
In his words, “Why should we not join Benue state when we get everything from them? Even the wooden bridge we are using in our community today to connect with them was built by Benue state government. Enugu state government has forgotten everything about us,” said the resident who spoke to our reporter.
The sleepy community, which is about 30kms away from Ikem, the headquarters of Isi-Uzo LGA, is said to be rich in agricultural resources like cassava, corn, rice, yam and other farm produce.
Though the community has boundaries with Ogbadibo Local Government Area in the south and Okpokwu Local Government Area in the north, both in Benue State and from which they have benefitted quite much in terms of enjoyment of social amenities, they still pledge their political allegiance to Enugu state, except for the recent agitation by their youths to join Benue state.
The community is under Eha-Amufu political ward 1, comprising Agu-Amede, Isu and Odenigbo and ninety-nine percent of the people are farmers in yam, rice, cassava and other crops, and cultivating a fertile land rich in those natural soil nutrients that often result in rich harvests.
Community dwellers speak
In our chats with some community dwellers in separate interviews, the villagers expressed dissatisfaction at their pitiable situation, describing their community as a dungeon and calling on the Governor Ugwuanyi administration in Enugu state to come to their rescue.
A farmer, Mr. Ogada Ejiofor said the deplorable condition of the community’s only access road is making life difficult for villagers,especially traders and farmers in the area, lamenting that the
deplorable state of roads has hindered economic and social development in Odenigbo.
“The only road linking our community with the outside world is not passable, especially when it rains,” he agonised.
“I want to call on Governor Ugwuanyi to come to our aid and get the road rehabilitated so that we can bring out our farm produce to where people can buy them.
“I don’t know if it will be too much for me to ask for other social amenities that are lacking in the community. We don’t have electricity, we don’t have pipe-borne water, no hospital, no secondary school, teachers are not finding our community habitable to live and teach due to poor infrastructure.’’
The Town Union president of the proposed autonomous community, Mr Ferdinand Nnaji said the poor infrastructural situation in the community has degenerated to a stage where some of their people are threatening to join the Benue State, following many years of neglect by Enugu State.
“The Benue state government has approached us on many occasions to join them so that we can get some social amenities since the Enugu State government we are waiting for is not forthcoming,” Nnaji alerted, pointing out that the Benue State government built a connecting bridge for them at Ogbowu water to allow for unfettered interaction between Odenigbo and their neighbouring Benue communities.
He further stated that most of their people, especially the youths, are currently agitating that they be allowed to join Benue State, a situation he attributed to the poor infrastructures in the community ,adding that teachers posted to the community to teach in the only primary school there have all run away, leaving only three with the headmaster behind.
He, however, stressed that the hope of the community is that government will approve their proposed autonomous community so that they will have a common front to appeal to the state and federal government for social amenities.
Also in a chat with our reporter, Mr. Anselem Ogbu, a farmer and a catechist at St. Philips Catholic Church, Ogbugwu village said that “the body language of Enugu State government is that they are not interested in the community’s well being. I always wonder why the government will deny us all the social amenities our community deserves.”
He lamented that the only time government knows that they exist as a community is during election period.
“Once it is election time, they will flood our community with campaign posters, promising us heaven and earth just to get our votes but immediately they get our votes, you will not hear anything from them again and our community will become too far for them to visit again,” he agonised.
Explaining further, Ogbu said: “Because of the way government neglected us, we don’t feel like citizens of Enugu State as we are not given any sense of belonging. We have waited for successive governments to no avail. Even this present government has not had any tangible project for us.
“They are treating us like animals. No good access road, no pipe-borne water, no electricity, no secondary school, no hospital and the list is endless. The only primary school in our community is currently under deplorable condition.
“Assuming that the government has us in their plan, let them start with one of the things I mentioned above so that we will know that they have regards for us. Now, to bring out our agricultural produce to where people can buy them is a very big problem we are facing due to poor access road.”
The traditional ruler of the community, Chief Gilbert Ogada said the people of Odenigbo took a unanimous decision to have autonomous community, explaining that the decision came after many decades of total government neglect and maginalization by their parent community.
He admitted that the bad state in which the community finds itself has attracted the sympathy of the government of Benue State, which has helped them to construct a wooden bridge that links Odenigbo with its neighbouring Benue communities.
He, however, said that the offer by Benue State to annex their community and provide them with all the social amenities “is a no-go area”, adding that the community has high hopes in Ugwuanyi’s administration.
Youths consistently threaten to join Benue State
One of the youths in the community, Mr. Sunday Odoabuchi, who spoke to our reporter, emphasised that the people of the community have been suffering for so long due to lack of social amenities, saying: “It was the poor infrastructure in the community that attracted the Benue state government who offered to fix some of the roads and connecting bridges in our community and, in exchange, annex our community to be part of Benue State.
“This we have given a thought and we considered it a welcome development but to our surprise our elders later developed cold feet to give us a go-ahead.”
“Can you imagine in this 21st century a community in Enugu state has no electricity. We cross over to Benue to charge our phones and other electrical gadgets. We take our sick people to their hospitals.
“We are not getting good value for our agricultural produce because our community is locked up due to no access road. How can government neglect a community that has potential to feed the whole state and beyond with its agricultural produce?
“Currently, a painter of garri is sold in our community for between N400 and N500 as against N1000 to N1100 you can buy it elsewhere. This is because traders are not coming to patronize us, and we don’t have the way to take our produce to the market because there is no good road,” Odoabuchi lamented.
Another youth Ifeanyi Ugwu wondered why a state governor of Nsukka cultural extraction will neglect a boundary community in Nsukka cultural zone for over seven years in office.
“When Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi became the governor of Enugu state, we celebrated him as if it was our own son that won the seat. Our expectation was that he would remember us at least in one of our basic needs.
“As at today, the situation is getting worse, our community is like a dungeon. We rely on Benue state for virtually everything. How can a responsible government put a boundary community in the darkness for many years?
“For over six years, we have been appealing and asking for autonomous community, all to no avail, yet, they said that Enugu State is in the hands of God,” he wailed.
What Enugu state government is doing to redeem the situation
The foregoing notwithstanding, Hon Thaddeus Ugwu, the immediate past councilor who represented Eha ward 1 in Isi-uzo LG Council, said the Ugwuanyi Administration has brought positive signs of hope, admitting that the community, as already explained by some of the people already spoken with, had been denied a fair share of democracy dividends since the country returned to democratic rule in 1999.
“There’s hope. Ugwuanyi’s administration has rekindled our hope in government. It is only in his administration that Odenigbo people were allowed to produce a councillor and which I was the one elected in 2017. This has never happened before.
“Just recently, his administration built a three-classroom block for nursery school pupils attached to our community primary school,” he said.
Ugwu, however, appealed to the people not to lose faith in government assuring that, “since government has remembered us by allowing us to produce a councillor, definitely they will remember us in our other needs”.
Will Enugu state government allow Odenigbo Eha-Amufu to be annexed by Benue state owing to alleged total neglect being meted out to them by the Enugu state? Only time will tell.
But, unfortunately, time is of the essence as one of the community dwellers, John Agu told WITHIN NIGERIA “As it is now, nothing can stop us from joining Benue state. Whoever that is happy with the present situation in our community should stay behind. Yes. I am telling you the truth. There is nothing we can do about it. We marry each other.
We help each other. We do all sorts of business together with these Benue people. So, why can’t we be called Benue people? Why can’t we be annexed by Benue? In fact, as far as I am concerned, I like Benue government more than Enugu state government and want to be a Benue person.
“In fact, without Benue state, you wouldn’t have been able to come here. So, we have made up our mind to join Benue state if something meaningful does not come out of Enugu state government soon. Imagine our wives give birth on the roads, inside farms and in the bushes because we have no hospital. Our community dwellers drink poop water because we have no pipe-borne water. Our children don’t know what is called television. It is really terrible here.”
Lamenting further, Mr. Agu explained that as the 2023 is around the corner, politicians seeking for public office will flood their community, soliciting for their political support. But after their victory on the polls, they will not remember them again.