Human and vehicular traffic leading to Federal Polytechnic, Oko, Anambra, was at a standstill for several hours on Tuesday as women protest against excessive excavation of sand in the area.
The women numbering over 200 from Oko community in Orumba North Local Government Area had claimed that the excavation had made the area vulnerable to devastation caused by erosion.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the women carried various placards and barricaded roads leading to Federal Polytechnic, Oko.
Mrs Maureen Izuegbunam, the Women Leader, Oko community, who led the protest, told newsmen that over 15 houses had caved in as a result of erosion while many others were on the verge of collapse.
“The Federal Government through NEWMAP had approved an intervention for the control of erosion but those excavating sands had refused to let the project be carried out because of their financial gain.
“We decided to stage a protest against the sand excavators since they refused to heed our plea to allow construction work go on,” Izuegbunam stressed.
“We have appealed to the state government to come to our aid but since the government is not interested in our plight, we may be forced to relocate from the disaster area because most of our houses are already under threats of the erosion.
“Already, we were leaving with our children, animals and property but are prevailed upon to stay behind by some of our husbands, who were suddenly released this morning from detention over the disputed excavation site.
“We were reliably informed that the state, local governments and the state Ministry of Environment are involved in the collection of revenue at the excavation site.
“Therefore, if Governor Willie Obiano’s government feels that Oko is still part of the state, he should do the needful because if he fails to intervene, we will definitely relocate to other areas with our family with the notion that the state government cares less about us,” she said.
Also, Mrs Akuabata Nwankwo, appealed to the state government to intervene on the matter, noting that erosion had destroyed many buildings worth millions of Naira in the area.
“If nothing is done now to tackle the menace not just in Oko but in the entire Orumba North and South Local Government Areas, there may be loss of lives in the next rainy season.
Reacting, the state Commissioner for Environment, Mr Mike Okonkwo said the ministry had a month ago sealed off the excavation site to enable it to conduct Environmental Impact Assessment.
“From the look of things, it is contributing to erosion but because we wanted things done properly, we decided to conduct an assessment.
“However, the youth of the area in collaboration with some persons who had interest in the sand business reopened it without government’s knowledge.
“Government will definitely look into the protesters’ demand,” Okonkwo said.