Insight

Ezzagu: Punished for wasted opportunities (2)

…CONTINUED FROM LAST WEEK

For not utilising its opportunities, Ezzagu community in Ishielu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State is gripped by so many needs – good roads, hospitals, and other amenities, reports UCHENNA INYA

lost three of my parishioners to lack of amenities -Cleric A cleric, who is presently the Parish Priest of St. Joseph Catholic Church in the Ezzagu community, Rev Fr. Malachy Nkanebe, said he had lost a pregnant woman, a young boy who was the senior prefect of a secondary school in the parish and a four-month-old girl as a result of lack of amenities.

He said: “It’s a pity that we don’t have a functional health facility around and it is a challenge that my people are dying of what I can call avoidable death because there is no functional health facility around to help them in difficulties. “I have lost three persons in my car in my effort to take them to Abakaliki; a two hours plus journey. Some of them made it to the hospital and they came back alive and they are happy but some of them couldn’t make it to the hospital. I lost a pregnant woman who had complications in labour all through the night. In the morning, in an effort to take her to the hospital, she died in my car and I had to turn.

I brought her back as a corpse. I lost a youth, a vibrant young man. Unfortunately, he was the senior prefect of my secondary school here. I did everything humanly possible but he couldn’t make it and he died. I lost a child of about four months who was very sick. We were running around to take her to the hospital in Abakaliki and before we could get to Abakaliki, the little girl died. I shed tears always for the people of this community.”

Past leaders get the blame for Ezzagu’s woes Residents of the community attributed the poor condition of the Ezzagu community to poor leadership by their past representatives at the federal and state levels. They told our correspondent in the community that Ezzagu and the Ishielu Local Government Area in general was among the places in Ebonyi State politically blessed but had nothing to show for it.

One of them, Innocent Chuma, explained that Ezzagu in particular produced a two-term senator, speaker of the state House of Assembly and a member of the state House of Assembly, who represented them for eight years. He said: “We had leaders in this community who were supposed to address some of these challenges we are having but they did not represent us well. They did not utilise their opportunities and power to solve some of the numerous problems facing us today. “Afor Ezza used to be the largest market in the South-East because people from the south eastern states
used to come here to buy things and go. But today, look at the condition of this market. Our past leaders and representatives from Ezzagu failed us and they need to apologise to us for their failure to tackle some of our problems with their power and positions. We cannot say, in all honesty, that God has not been merciful enough to us by helping us get political representatives. “We have had senators, we have had House of Assembly members, we have produced the speaker of the state House of Assembly, and we have had a two-term senator.

But a visit to this community will shock you and make you believe that we have never had these beautiful opportunities. How can we have these personalities who occupied strategic positions in the country and still be in this terrible condition?” Another resident of the area, Dr. Uhuo Cosmos, corroborated Chuma’s views. Cosmos said if their past political leaders who had great opportunities to change their narrative had utilised those opportunities, the problems of the community would have been reduced greatly.

He said: “We have so many problems here. We are in dire lack. Where it affects most is the road network; we don’t have roads. Why some of our agricultural byproducts waste is because there is no road for them to be transported to the urban centres. “Lack of hospital is one of the major issues in this place. If you have acute malaria now, they either take you to Abakaliki or Enugu. Yet, the road to these places is in a deplorable state; you can’t even access it within two hours.

Presently, we have recorded deaths as a result of delivery complicated problems by our pregnant women because they cannot access medical services in this place. “I have had countless number of experiences in this community. I have had my car submerged at the middle of the road as if I was driving through the ocean.

“These problems would have been solved had it been that most of our past political leaders did their best. They did virtually nothing. If they had done something, the enormity of these problems would not have been this grievous. But they didn’t do anything.

I pray now that those who are currently representing us like the House of Representatives member and the senator, who is from our local government, and some political appointees we have can come to the aid of the community.” On his part, Chief Chukwu Ignatius thanked the governor for all the “wonderful work he has been doing in the state”.

He said: “There is no local government he has not done any project. But we want to tell him to visit us here and see our conditions. We lack so many amenities here like hospitals because our women who want to give birth travel about 20 miles to give birth. We want the governor to establish a hospital in Ezzagu. We also need a good road network, electricity, water and other amenities. During the rainy season, we don’t come home because of bad roads. We need roads, mostly.”

A youth leader, Ugbala Solomon,noted that in a place where there is no electricity, development is usually slow which, according to him, is manifesting in Ezzagu. He added: “In the rainy season like this, we find it very difficult to travel. We find it difficult before we cannot get a vehicle that can carry our agricultural produce. So, we are calling on the government to give us a good road network.

“We also need a health centre here because many women have died here during labour before being taken to where they can give birth as a result of lack of health facilities in this community. “There was a time a resident of this community brought a hospital here but the doctor he employed said he could not stay here because there is no electricity. As a result, the maternity hospital collapsed.

So, we are begging the government to give us electricity. “Most of our products need to be preserved with electricity but because of lack of electricity we find it very difficult to preserve all those things. So, we need electricity in this community. “We are in the rainy season and to travel out of the community is very difficult. For people to come in is also a very big problem too. So, we need a good road network. Lack of good roads and electricity is the most challenging of our problems.”

A legal practitioner in the area, Mr. Emmanuel Nwite, said the people of Ezzagu have been disconnected from the rest of the world as a result of a bad road network despite having four out of the 16 federal wards in the entire Ishielu Local Government Area.

He said: “There is no accessible road to a zone that has four federal wards out of 16 federal wards in Ishielu Local Government Area from all frontiers; Agba axis, Ezillo axis, Enugu axis. Today no Ezzagu man or woman who is blessed by God during the rainy season or has an emergency during the rainy season can access home to utilise such a blessing to develop his place or attend to such an emergency. “We are completely disconnected from the rest of the world as a result of lack of accessible roads on all fronts.

We have recorded a lot of avoidable deaths as a result of lack of healthcare facilities. I cry for my people every day. Though I am helpless today, I know that a day shall come when God will deliver us by raising a Messiah.” Prime Minister lauds Umahi, demands more amenities The Traditional Prime Minister of Ezza Ezekuna, Nze Johnpaul Ngwuta Nwali, while speaking with our correspondent over situation of things in Ezzagu, appreciated Governor Dave Umahi for completing Agba-Ezzagu Unity Bridge abandoned by the previous administration of Chief Martin Elechi, construction of Ntezi-Agba Road and the NIGERCEM Road. He also commended the governor for the ongoing renovation of the General Hospital, Agba in the Ishielu Local Government Area. Nwali, however, appealed for provision of other basic infrastructural facilities and social amenities for Ezzagu.

He said: “I am landlocked, Ezzagu zone as a whole is barricaded from other parts of Ebonyi State as a result of lack of a good network of roads. I have no road to my palace. Ezzagu communities, including Ezzagu, Azuinyaba and Ezekuna, need urgent intervention in road construction.

We also need healthcare facilities, electricity, potable water and all life-enhancing amenities.” We’re constructing the road -Government Meanwhile, the Commissioner for Works and Transport, Mr. Ogbonnaya Obasi (an engineer), said the state government is already constructing the road and urged the people to be patient with it until the 35km road is completed.

Obasi said the road was divided into two phases for the construction and that work is going on smoothly on the road. The commissioner explained that the first phase of the road is nearing completion and that as soon as that section is completed, the second phase will follow immediately. Obasi said this while reacting to the complaints of the Ezzagu people that they have been abandoned by the state government. He explained that the road was initially awarded to a contractor but the contract was terminated following slow pace of work.

The commissioner added that it was awarded to another contractor in February and that the contractor has done 10 kilometres of its first phase remaining 5km to be completed. He said: “Remember when Ebonyi State was newly created and I had an assignment to do at Ezzagu, I had to access Ezzagu through Enugu State. That is the truth. People from that community will confirm that before Ebonyi State was created, you could only access Ezzagu through Enugu State. Thank God Ebonyi State was created and we now have these roads leading to Ebonyi State. “It is on record that the 35km Ntezi- Agba-Isu Road was constructed during the regime of Dr. Sam Egwu and that road was done on asphalt and completed up to Isu.

“It is also on record that the Agba- Eguhuo-Ezzagu Road was also awarded on contract by the immediate past government of Chief Martin Elechi including one of the unity bridges. “The road was completed but the belly bridge was still there; the belly bridge wasn’t completed. When His Excellency, Governor Dave Umahi came on board, that bridge was completed. “For the fact that Ntezi to Isu axis of the road has gone bad, His Excellency the Governor also took it upon himself to award the contract. For now, about 10km of that road has been completed on rigid pavement and work is still ongoing.

“Like we all know, when His Excellency came on board, he promised each local government in the state 15km of road rigid pavement construction and we know that Nkalagu- Ehamufu Road in Ishielu has been completed by His Excellency and that road is about 17km.

“So, if anybody wants to fault His Excellency the Governor, it is not on road construction because he has done tremendously well on road construction. Right now, there is no local government in the state that has less than 20km of rigid pavement motorable road. Ebonyi State, as at today, has the best road network in Nigeria. “We know that the government is supposed to provide all the amenities but we also know that the government doesn’t have all the funds all the time, therefore, these projects are prioritised. For the 35km Ntezi-Agba- Isu Road, we are just doing the first phase of that project. His Excellency is so committed to completing that project from beginning to the end as soon as this phase is completed. I am very sure that the second phase of the road will commence.

“We have said often that these asphalt surfaces within one year will go down, from our experiences. Thank God today that His Excellency is now doing our roads on rigid pavement where we have seen for the past five years there have been no failures. So, let us be patient with the government because like I said with time, this 35km road will also be completed like other ones and we still have about three years for this administration to wind up. “I know that if we had started constructing the road from the middle, people will also complain; why are you starting from the middle? What is important is that the project has been phased. From the first phase, the second phase will start as soon as the first phase is completed.

“Like you know, this road was initially awarded on contract and was terminated because the contractor was slow; if you follow it very well. Then this job was just awarded to China Zonghai in January/February this year and they have been able to do about 10km. I am sure that but for the rains, before the end of this year, that remaining 5km will be completed. So, we are now battling with the rains but be assured that before the end of this year, that section will be completed and I assure you that the next phase will follow suit”. In his own reaction, the Special Assistant to the Governor on Media, Francis Nwaze, blamed the pregnant women in the community who lost their lives or their babies on their way to hospital during labour. He said they ought to have gone to the hospital for delivery of their babies before labour.

Nweze disclosed that a general hospital located in the area is currently undergoing reconstruction by the state government and that in the next few days, it will be ready for use. He said: “If somebody is pregnant, I think there is what is called Expected Delivery Date (EDD) and before then, you are supposed to be in the hospital which is what those who are complaining that they die or their babies die on the way to hospital in Abakaliki during labour should have done.

“The Agba General Hospital located on the Ezzagu Road is one of the General Hospitals in the state that His Excellency the Governor approved for reconstruction. The team led by Mrs. Ann Aligwe has started work there. In less than seven days time, the work will be completed.”

*Concluded

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