Lawmakers bemoan plights of riverine community where students, pupils swim before accessing schools

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BY AGNES NWORIE, ABAKALIKI

Owing to the absence of a bridge, pupils and students in Amata, a riverine community in Afikpo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, have no choice than to swim the long stretch of river that connects to where their schools are situated.

While those who can risk the voyage do it daily to acquire education, many other children in the community have been denied opportunities to study because they could not swim.

Stakeholders in the community said their efforts at calling the attention of the state government and other concerned authorities to their plights had failed.

A resident of the riverine area who did not want to be named said, “For some years since the makeshift bamboo culvert we have been using damaged and was swept away by water, we have been swimming our way in and out of our community.

“Unfortunately, the river connects us to our neighboring communities and to the schools of our children. So, most of our children had no choice than to swim in order to get to their schools. We are still calling on government and others concerned to come to our aid.”

Meanwhile, the indigenes’ challenge appeared to have been noticed recently as the Leader of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Kingsley Ogbonnaya-Ikoro, who hails from the affected area, brought the issue to the notice of his colleagues in the House and lamented the plights of the people habitating the riverine community.

He confirmed that school children swim to access their schools.

The lawmaker raised the concern as a “matter of urgent public importance” during plenary in Abakaliki, the state capital, recently.

He accused a Chinese Mining Company in the area of failing in its social responsibility to the host community.

Ogbonnaya-Ikoro called on the House Committee on Solid Minerals and other relevant government agencies to intervene in the matter and guarantee better living conditions for the host rural dwellers.

He said, “A construction company in Amata community of Afikpo Local Government Area in my constituency,known as China Solid Rock, has failed to perform its social responsibility roles. I can tell you, Mr Speaker, that students who live in that place, the only way they go to school is by swimming to the other side of the river, and while coming back, they do same.

“Meanwhile, there is a Chinese mining company called China Solid Rock in that place. They could not even work on the road leading to their company. If you go there, almost about 80 buildings have serious crack defects and some already collapsed due to the blast from the mining company.”

“Secondly, when it rains in Amata, if you go to fetch water there, what you will see is different attitudes. So, Mr Speaker and colleagues, I am begging that the House Committee on Mining and relevant government agencies should pay a visit to that particular mining site so that they can see the actual situation of things and force the company to do the needful,” he appealed.

The legislator added, “In mining, there is what is called the social responsibility role of the company to its host community. I ask myself: where did Amata people get it wrong? They no longer have good drinking water, no road and their children cannot go to school on land, whereas, the solid mineral deposits in that place is being mined everyday and night by foreigners.

“Colleagues, I plead with you. We are all representatives of the people. The mandates we enjoy here today belong to the people, so, we must be accountable in representing the interest of the people. We must sit up for the people. The major essence of governance is for protection of lives and properties.”

Corroborating his revelations and appeal, the Chief Whip of the House and member representing Edda West constituency, Nkemka Onuma, called for strict supervision of all mining companies operating in the state with a view to compelling them to mine in accordance with mining laws.

“Mr Speaker, it is always said that repetition is the law of emphasis. It is not only in China Solid Rock, the anomaly transverses the entire state. The roads leading to these quarry companies sites are deteriorating because of constant movement of heavy trucks on them.

“The responsibilities of these mining companies are not being felt by the people to the extent that they can commit nuisance. The access ways that these heavy trucks ply should be put in good working conditions by the companies. I call on the House Committee on Mining and relevant government agencies to rise to the occasion in order to ensure that people don’t take the state for granted,” he stated.

Responding, the Chairman of the House Committee on Solid Minerals, Nwakpu Ifeanyi, advised the parliament to encourage the host community to report the menace officially to the committee for prompt intervention.