Women trading on seafood at the shore of the river in Ibeno, Akwa Ibom State.

By Contributor

Unless there is an immediate intervention, Usiakifia, a riverine community in Upenekang, Ibeno Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, may soon be swept into the bin of history.

This is as a result of natural and human activities, worsened by the abandonment of a multi-billion naira shore protection project, awarded in 2012 by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to Messrs Smith Engineering.

The company was to carry out an embankment project around the river in order to check ocean encroachment and shoreline erosion in the community during high tides.

However, ten years after the multi-million-naira shore protection project was awarded by the interventionist agency, and mobilization paid to the contractor, he did only a small portion and left the project uncompleted.

In his explanation to Niger Delta Network, a non-governmental civic accountability group, which visited the riverine community on a fact-finding mission on Thursday, a youth leader in Opolom; Mr. Daniel Solomon, said the NDDC contractor who handled the shore protection project had since abandoned the site with no hope of completion, thus exposing Usiakifia, Iwuoachang, Opolom and other villages in the riverine area to the danger of shoreline erosion.

“Where you are seeing,” pointing to the river, “had between fifteen (15) to twenty five (25) homes there and it is unfortunate that occupants of those houses are now homeless and have lost all their property to the sea surge.

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“My people are now living at the mercy of the sea and it has claimed almost two kilometers of our land. The disaster has reduced the community landmass and we keep moving upland. The population is growing, while the land is shrinking,” Solomon lamented.

However, the team observed that the first Qua Iboe Church in the country, which was constructed by Samuel Bill, is just a stone throw away from the Usiakifia river and may soon be affected by the calamity that is befalling the area.

Another respondent who gave his name as Chief Lazarus Mkpat, regretted the abandonment of the NDDC project, saying the situation has become a nightmare due to the increase in water level and worsening erosion menace.

Mkpat, a retired Civil Servant, blamed the abandoned projects and the alleged poor performance of the project on the lack of supervision, commitment, and synergy with various stakeholders across the Niger Delta region.

He, however, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari, to use his good offices and order the absconded contractor whom he alleged had been mobilized, to return to the site and complete the shore protection project, in order to safeguard the lives and property of his people.