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We Need a University Campus in Agenebode; Usagbe Decries Poor Infrastructure in Communities

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CEM REPORT, SOCIAL WORKS | The near absence of infrastructure in Weppa, Wanno and Uzanu communities in Edo State has continued to occupy discussions at any opportunity provided by any fora involving stakeholders in those communities. The prominence of this subject stems from the adverse economic brunt the people of the communities bear as productive efforts barely result in substantial outcome.

It has become more convenient to describe the state of infrastructure as absence of governance impact as described by RHC (Prof.) Mike Ozekhome as he spoke passionately in an interview with the crew of The Usagbe Chronicles. “I can’t see the impact of governance in Weppa and Wanno”, he summarized.

This submission resonated in his Lecture titled “Creating an Enabling Environment for Investment in Weppa Wanno and Uzanu Communities”, delivered at the Annual Retreat/Convention of the Usagbe Club of Nigeria held recently in Limoh Suites in Benin the Edo State Capital.

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Usagbe Club of Nigeria has consistently discussed and actionized development of Weppa Wanno and Uzanu Communities, incorporating it in nearly every of their gathering and utilizing every opportunity to present the economic challenges of the communities especially when there is presence of government official.

With the Deputy Governor of Edo State, Comrade Philip Shaibu in attendance, the 2023 edition of Usagbe Club Annual Retreat/Convention was another opportunity to hammer on the poor state of infrastructure in Weppa Wanno and Uzanu Communities. Barr. Mike Ozekhome, SAN left no stone unturned and no turn unstoned in emphasizing the backwardness experienced in those communities as a result of the poor state of basic amenities.

While highlighting on a general note the place of infrastructure on community development, Ozekhome said; “Adequate and reliable infrastructure, such as roads, energy supply, telecommunications, and water and sanitation systems, form the backbone of thriving communities and vibrant economies. Investing in infrastructure not only improves the quality of life for community members but also attracts businesses, stimulates economic activities, and facilitates the efficient flow of goods and services. The government, in collaboration with private sector partners, must prioritize infrastructure development as a key driver of community growth and investment attraction.”

Prof. Ozekhome dwelt in specifics those infrastructural yearnings of the people of Weppa Wanno and Uzanu which include roads, hospitals, educational institutions especially absence of a tertiary institution campus despite the presence of 5 notable higher institutions in Edo State.

Call for a university campus in Agenebode became the strongest following its ability to stimulate development especially through increased business activities, as has been observed in the case of Ekpoma, Auchi and now Ivhiamo.

Prof. Ozekhome lamented the closure of the College of Agriculture and Technology, Agenebode which was the light of hope in the community. The institution was abruptly closed down and yet to be reopened despite efforts from the sons and daughters of the land, court judgement on the staff’ lawsuit which granted all their prayers and promises from the Edo State Government.

“We all woke up to hear by February 8, 2018, after many years of this higher institution in our land that was so promising, that it had been closed down. All the staff, including those who had spent over ten years in service was thrown out and into labour market. All the students’ academic career was truncated in their prime.

“Most of these students were then under the scholarship schemes of Usagbe, Pyramid club and other individuals. The purpose of this sponsorship was to encourage the indigent students and to make agriculture a focal base of the government of the day. Five years and still counting, nothing has been done to restart the institution; notwithstanding (as I read in papers) that the staff went to court and the court granted all their prayers”; Ozekhome narrated.

He appealed to the Deputy Governor (sited) that Edo State Government should try and reopen the institution. He said “I humbly, most prayerfully urge our “wake-and–see” Governor of action to urgently look into this aching point and bring back the school before his tenure expires.”

Roads has been known to be central to development since it facilitates movement of persons and goods. This became a focal point in Prof. Ozekhome’s lecture. His presentation of facts sends gloom to the growth of the communities. He said, “Weppa Wanno Kingdoms have been neglected in road construction matters; hence we are seriously prone to erosion, gullies and canyons. Most of the linkage roads have been cut off. These may get worse during the rainy season”. He capped the state of the roads by saying; “We do not have any presence of state government roads at all in our two kingdoms.”

A deeper concern was expressed by Prof. Ozekhome about the Okpella – Agenebode connecting road which has been so much spoken about and for which a lot of promises have been made. The first of the promises was in 2019 at the Usagbe convention in Abuja when the Executive Governor of Edo State, Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki promised to construct the road. The Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu at the 2022 convention announced that the architectural drawing has been concluded awaiting commencement of work; the same position he repeated this year in his response.

[READ ALSO] Edo State Government to Commence the Construction of Okpella – Agenebode Access Road

Until the road is constructed, Okpella remain cut off from Weppa and Wanno belonging to the same Etsako-East Local Government. “The irony is that residents of these clans in just one Local Government Area therefore have to pass through Auchi and Fugar in two other Local Government Areas of Etsako West and Estako Central to get over to their villages in Weppa Wanno. Economic and social activities are thereby greatly impeded. We therefore wish to remind our dear Governor of the promise he made at our 2018 Convention to construct this road”; Ozekhome said.

Among other infrastructural decays Prof. Ozekhome spoke about is perpetual darkness in those communities as they have experienced a prolonged absence of electricity supply. “In the last few years, Weppa and Uvhanno have been badly hit by poor electricity supply. While places like Fugar and Ogbona are constantly having light, we literally live in darkness. For over three months now, there is no light in Weppa Wanno. This has greatly hampered the development of OUR PEOPLE and their social and economic activities. With petrol selling for over 700 Naira per litre and diesel for over 1000 Naira per litre, the proverbial common man and woman are asphyxiating”; he said.

Speaking on health infrastructure, Ozekhome lamented that “the General Hospital at Agenebode lacks basic facilities to function properly. They lack new ambulances. The aged one has since been packed. Staff quarters are in a sorry state with bad and dilapidated toilets, bathrooms and septic tanks which are broken and smelling. Workers and patients now freely defecate in the bushes nearby. There are no scan machines.

The absence of electricity worsens matters. Though this affects the whole Uvhanno and Weppa, there is need to make special provision for alternative sources of energy, such as inverter, solar, generating sets, etc. The hospital lacks eye and dental clinics due to lack of equipment for these. There is no mortuary. It is only the dry cell mortuary built by Usagbe Club of Nigeria and commissioned by the Okumagabe of Uvhanno Kingdom in December 2001 that still covers our shame till date. This is the urgent need for this government to step in and save lives.

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