THE SEARCH FOR DRINKABLE WATER IN OGBONA BY ALFRED ENETOMHE IDODE AND JOHN ODIOR ANAWEOKHAI
The search for drinking water in Ogbona community over the years and a brief history of how we used to source water for our daily use was put together by two of our best historians, Alfred Enetomhe Idode and John Odior Anaweokhai. Commentaries provided by Gilbert Odior
HISTORY OF THE SEARCH FOR WATER AT OGBONA – ALFRED ENETOMHE IDODE
In the days of yore, water scarcity was a huge problem in Avhianwu clan and Afemai Division. The people made great efforts at providing water during the seasons i.e. dry and raining seasons. In raining season, people would gather water from different sources like;
- a) erosion water–Ame Okpho
- b) Grass Roof water–Ame Egaah
- c) Date palm leaf (Obe owo)–Ame Okwui
Only “Ame Okpho” was then purified by sprinkling a quantity of ashes into the storage pots and the red muddy water would be purified like water gathered from the roof top. Some used Alum which was costlier to purify water.
In the dry season, only a few of the streams survived the long dry season. This was how our people suffered serious deficits of good drinking water long time ago.
EFFORTS OF THE COLONIAL AUTHORITY
- In 1946, the colonial authority constructed and built Native Authority School with the first underground tank in Ogbona to store water for the use of the headmaster during the dry season whose official residence was within the school area.
- In 1952, the colonial authority sent a British engineer Mr. Cockhead in search of a suitable site to drill an industrial borehole for Avhianwu clan. He came to Ogbona with his team and inspected Ukwue Ivhianaga and left for Fugar to search for suitable site too. He later settled for a site in Fugar (Ukwue Ulumhoghie). Some of the children born in Ogbona that period were named after Engr. Cockhead.
- In 1960, the Western Region Government sent a team of water resources personnel to Ogbona for Industrial borehole possible site. This team was headed by an Israeli Engineer, Engineer A.K.A COMEEHERE because he could not speak ENGLISH. He drilled a borehole at Ogbona in the compound of Eramha John Anasaikhi Odogbo. This Israeli Engineer “Comeehere” did a good job; he struck a good mass of water at a reasonable depth. This borehole project was to cost the Western Regional Government a sum of £165,000 pounds. It was to serve Ogbona, Iraokhor, Apana, Fugar and Aviodo villages.
This borehole was to produce 75,000 gallons of water per hour, and the chemical analysis of the water was done and passed okay.
Above was privileged information on this issue years ago, courtesy of some concerned Avhianwu citizens who tried in vain to arouse the interest of Admiral Okhai Mike Akhigbe on the project with the documents during the military government era. This project became abandoned after the Midwest Region opted out of the West through a plebiscite in August 1963. The Midwest Regional Government was not interested in the project. I believe this borehole is still very much alive and needs evaluation and resuscitation.
SELF HELP EFFORTS BETWEEN 1965 AND LATE SEVENTIES
As the housing in Ogbona changed from mud houses and grass roof to block houses and Zinc roof, people of Ogbona started building individual underground tanks in their respective houses – all aimed at solving the perennial water problem. The water collects in the underground tanks during the raining season for use throughout the year.
Efforts of Dr. John Besiru Idode the then Director, DFFRI Bendel State gave Ogbona people their first sustainable borehole. This borehole was sunk at the watershed of “Ekhaebade”, it was meant to run all the year round before “local issues” started to affect it shortly after its commission in 1987
…. By Alfred Enetomhe Idode
OGBONA WATER BOREHOLE & THE BROKEN JINX – JOHN ODIOR ANAWEOKHAI
Until 1987 when Dr. J.B Idode in his capacity as The Director General of The Directorate for Food & Rural Infrastructure, a parastatal established by the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida’s administration, sank the first borehole in Ogbona, all preceding efforts in that direction proved abortive. The need to have easy and cost effective alternative source of water was a great concern to everybody because of the challenge water scarcity posed to the entire community especially during the dry seasons.
The primary and nearest sources of water during dry seasons were the numerous streams that were contiguous to Ogbona lands, unfortunately, they were very far from the community. Getting water from any of the streams was not an easy task. Apart from the distance, there were other challenges that one had to brave on the way. As a matter of fact, no stream is less than 7 kilometers away from home and the hills that awaited one on the way was another story altogether. It was as if nature had conspired with an invincible hand through an ungentlemanly agreement to locate all the streams in rough and rugged terrains, all to the disadvantage of our people.
There were Ekhaebade, Avhieda, Edaoghiator, Ukpuwaezi, Okokotoko, Aduegbegai, Olomhe ‘gbe and others. Though there were several of them, Ugbadeghie was arguably the most popular and patronized. Yes, Ugbadeghie. This is because Avhieda which was a stone throne from home was said to be very unreliable. It could barely serve three people at a time. Ugbadeghie which is a bit closer, compare to Ekhabade, had a snag, its route is ridden with steep hills and deep valleys. Jerrycan is a latter-day occurrence as people happily made do with the calabash gourd. Sometimes on the way back, the calabash would develop leakages but all that needed to done was to get a broom stick from any available dried palm leaves and stuck it into the tiny hole and that was it. The worst thing that could happen to anyone then was to have the misfortune of a broken calabash and the resultant spill. Such victim would come back home crying not necessarily because of the spilled water but because of the shame and jeers from peers. Sometime spilled water was the deliberate act of the victim as he would leave the gourd unsupported and unbalanced with hands on the head and would rather fold or dropped the hands altogether, sometime it was as a result of engaging in such unhealthy competition with ones’ peers. There was no slipper as the scorching heat of the sun did justice to people’s bare feet. There was this fruit with thick layers that looked like the sole of a shoe that was always improvised as slippers but it was very unreliable.
Everyone who grew up in the village up to the early 1980s understands the stress of waking up around 4am to go to the stream to fetch water for family use. It was a daily routine that one did either early in the morning or after school. On Saturday mornings, one would take his/her uniform to the stream to wash and leave them to dry to lighten the weight and stripped them like baby in the back with the gourd of water on the head. It was very terrible during the harmattan period. The mornings were extremely cold with fog-blurred visibility. Nothing was as frustrating and destabilizing as being woken up early in the morning during the harmattan period and been asked to go to the stream to fetch water.
It was our duty to fetch water for our teachers during the dry seasons and we enjoyed the honor of being called to serve in that capacity.
The next explorable alternative was the use of bicycle to fetch water from Fugar. Fugar was lucky to have functioning boreholes whose constructions dates back to 1957. It was not uncommon for people to go to Fugar with bicycle to fetch water. Too bad if one got there and there was no water. He dared not come back with empty jerrycans. He would have to go to Obe river to get water. Honestly, going to Obe river to fetch water with a bicycle was akin to sentencing one to firing squad because of the steep Obe hill on the way back. Ogio river was also patronized but mainly by taxi drivers and car owners who went there to wash their vehicles.
The last alternative source of water was through a commercial service delivery system by pick up vans and water tankers. This was very recent. It was a watershed and a game changer. It changed the dynamics and ushered in a new era in the quest to have a less energy sapping source of water. It brought about a new thinking and a different approach to solving the problem of water. Then, it cost a fortune that was not easy to come by. A drum of water cost N1, one naira which was hardly affordable.
I must not forget here the effort made during the raining seasons to conserve water however crude. I heard from an elder that as at 1948, there were two wide and deep pits where water was collected and purified with ashes for domestic use. There was UTEKE Orvini at Ivhiebi and UTEKE Campbell at Ivhiorevhor. This tradition still held sway up to the early 1970s.The burrow pits where sand was excavated for construction work on the new Auchi/Agenebode road were greatly patronised whenever it rained. The water was dirty and reddish in coloration. Alum or ashes was used to purify the water for domestic use.
There were few houses roofed with iron zinc and was also told that whenever it rained, big basins otherwise known as TALABI were placed under their edges to collect water.
The first conscious effort to preserve and conserve water in Ogbona can be traced back to 1946, when underground tank was sunk by the Native Authority in EDC primary school, Okotor and it remains as source of water till date. This provided a prototype to what was to be widely copied and replicated everywhere in the community. Underground tank, to say the least, is found in every compound today in Ogbona. It was a thing of pride to associate any compound with underground tank with a projected zinc cover.
In 1952, a British Engineer, by name Mr. Cockhead came to Ogbona to sink an industrial borehole at the market square, unfortunately, he was not successful and he proceeded to Fugar where the story was not different but before leaving Ogbona, he left a memento. Namely, all the children born in that year were named Cockhead. Cockhead Otsaki and Cockhead Ilega must have benefited from that magnanimity.
The second borehole expedition was carried out in 1962 between the Odogbo and the Asekhauno compounds by an Israelis Engineer who neither spoke English nor understood Etsako. At the end, he earned the name of COMEEHEE for himself. He was reported to have pointed to somebody in poorly accented English and said COME HERE, straightaway, he got the name that stuck with him all through his stay in Ogbona. Mr. COMEEHEE borehole brought with it the highs and lows of superstitious beliefs among our people. It was alleged that the water table had been reached but the mammy water spirit who was in charge of the water was not yet ready to let go. Again, it was concluded that the ferocious speed of the water if allowed to come out, would wipe out the entire village. It remains a contentious issue if the borehole project was ever a success. As little children, we would drop pebbles into the pipe and placed our ear drums on it to hear the sound of troubled water. This was carefully done in other not to arouse the wrath of elders who believed the water spirit could still be angered with dire consequences.
In 1983 or there about, another attempt was made opposite the present day Deeper Life Church building, very close to the Ekperi/Idagwa junction and of course, it was still the same story of absence of water underneath Ogbona soil.
Attempt were made to see if the Fugar water could be channeled to Ogbona, again, the refrain that water does not climb hill was quickly drawn upon (Ame ose ge).
It was in the above state of frustrations and despondency that Dr. J.B Idode brought some equipment to sink borehole in Ogbona and bearing in mind the resultant failures from similar expeditions, a careful geophysical survey was done and Imiava road after Agbha was chosen and water was struck within the shortest possible time. The news was received with great joy and wild jubilation. The borehole site was over two kilometers to town and in fairness to Dr. Idode, he did everything possible to get the water to town. The community on its own part, organized age groups to aid in the digging and laying of pipes to channel the water to town. Our age group dug the rocky ground beside Agbha. The activities of vandals did not help matters as the generator and other equipment were constantly at the mercy of men of the underworld.
There was this incidence that happened in 1988 where army vehicle was used to steal the electrical cables and other electrical materials from the site but unknown to thieves, Ogbona people were alerted and a road block was mounted. As they were coming back from their operation, they ran into the road block and abandoned the stolen items and the vehicle. Every effort to get the issue publicized was thwarted. At the end, even the recovered cables and other items were stolen right in the police station where they were kept.
Major Francis Atsegwasi short tenure as the caretaker of our local government council in 2002, saw another concerted effort to get the water running to town and he succeeded to a great extent but no sooner had his tenure elapsed than the facilities were again vandalized.
From the early 2000 till date, a lot has been done by individuals, politicians government bodies and through counterpart funding between Ogbona and other development partners to sink boreholes to ameliorate the problem of water in Ogbona. For example, Chief Dan Orbih singlehandedly sank two boreholes in Ogbona.
The two boreholes at the maternity and at the market square were jointly executed between government (UNICEF) and Ogbona Community in what is known as counterpart funding. The community executed the projects, however, the contractors used inferior materials that led to the collapse of the boreholes shortly after commissioning
As at today, apart from the one being undertaking by Sen. Francis Alimhikhena opposite Imhakhena Primary School and the other two under construction by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, inside Oboarekpe Primary School, there are about six boreholes in Ogbona and the focus has since shifted from sinking of boreholes to their maintenance and meeting the diesel demand to power the water pumping machines. It is in the light of this that Chief Dan Orbih awarded a contract of over N12 million for the installation of solar panels to power the two boreholes projects he executed for the community.
Again, Ogbona Elites Forum has been bearing the cost of maintenance and the purchase of diesel to power the water pumping since December 2016.
An average borehole in our community cost between N2.5 – 3.5M as the water depth or table is about 750ft deep. The borehole requires a minimum of a 7.5hp pump, 3-phase power supply and our power supply hardly come in 3 phases hence one requires a 15-30KVA generator and diesel to pump the water. For a good supply of water, one needs to install about 10,000 liters capacity overhead tanks to store water. Distribution network has not been well established in the village, so people have to go to the borehole site to fetch water.
All the water boreholes at Ogbona till date are non-industrial boreholes and limited in performance.
At the moment, there are seven public boreholes and three private boreholes in Ogbona but only a few of them are functioning.
- The one along Imiava road, provided by Dr. Idode which has been vandalized with all the electrical cables stolen.
- There is a new one located in the old headmaster residence of EDC school courtesy of Senator Alimhikhena though yet to be completed.
- There is one in Ivhiorevho which is functioning very well and now cater for more people than originally planned.
- The one in Ivhiochie, behind Agbayekhai’s house collapsed with the pump fallen inside. This is one of the counterpart funding with government efforts.
- The one by the maternity, opposite the Catholic Church, another counterpart funding borehole is not working as a result of thunder strike. It affected the pump and the generator.
- The one in Ivhido is functioning with solar, courtesy of Chief Dan Orbih.
- We have the Oshiomhole borehole along Ogbona Auchi road, close to the Okphe Ukpi palace but it is not functioning due to electrical and pump problems and the state government refused to give our community the necessary approval to get it fixed for a long time. The Okphe Ukpi has just obtained the approval and Ogbona Elites Forum is providing the fund to resuscitate the borehole and water supply
- There is also a personal bore hole in Chief Dan Orbih’s premises that is supplying water to some parts of the town.
- There is one in Gilbert Odior’s house that also provides water to the neighbouring homes.
- A new industrial borehole has just been sunk at the Ogbona Secondary School along with the Esso School Project and is yet to be commissioned for the students use
In February 2018, the Federal Government allocated two (2) industrial boreholes, a mini waterworks and 1.5km of pipe network to Ogbona community. The mini water is to be located at the Catholic Church premises at Ogbona and the first borehole drilling started about February 26th, 2018
By John Odior Anaweokhai