By Doosuur Iwambe
Life for the people of Pika community in Mbatiav, Gboko local government area of Benue state is apparently pathetic. Located about few meters away from Makurdi, the Benue State capital, the community is ravaged by poverty and all forms of environmental and economic retardation.
Like many disadvantaged communities in Benue state, where the presence of government is not felt in any way, the people have for many years relied on wells and the stream for their subsistence life and the women in the communities had to struggle daily walking long distances to the stream to fetch water for drinking, cooking and other household chores.
Most importantly, lack of portable water has posed many health challenges to the people in rural areas in the state, as children and even adults have contracted water borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid fever among others.
The people of the community depend on the local stream as their only source of water, filling an all-purpose gap; bathing, laundry, cooking and drinking – without any form of purification. It is pitiable, yet true to posit that the level of development in Pika is next to nothing as reflected in the poor road networks and limited telecommunication access.
On average, women and young children in Pika community have to visit the stream six-seven times daily. Sadly, the residential area is quite distant to the stream. Left with no alternative, day and night, people have to pass through bush paths to scoop the oily, dirty, coloured and smelling water from the stream to meet their basic domestic needs.
Pika community has two major access roads. The first link-road to the village is through Makurdi Alaide axis while the second route is through Igbor in Gwer Local government area. Due to the swampy and water-logged terrain, accessing Pika community is not usually a pleasurable transit during the raining season.
People plying the road during the raining season always rule out the possibility of driving to the community due to the bad state of the roads for fear of being stock in the mud.
Speaking with the Daily Times, a Roman Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Dennis Ortese Yiyeh CSSp, who also resides in the community wonders why the presence of government infrastructure is not felt in the area.
He said that ‘’this was how they came out to participate actively in the 2019 general elections. During the campaigns, they all come here with empty promises and once the elections are over, they all vanished.
‘’It is funny but interesting and good to know that this is one of the roads they followed to come to canvassed for votes in the last general election.
In fact, this is the major road that links and even connects the people from this axis to Makurdi and Gboko respectively and this is exactly how it looks like and has always been during the raining season.
“With this, our people from this village find it very difficult to move round and even transport their farm products to the nearby markets not to talk of distant places like Makurdi, Gboko etc.
The major means of transportation here is motorcycle popularly known as ‘okada’ due to the bad state of the road.
“We are calling/appealing to the good people of Benue state and Nigeria at large to help let the government remember this people.
‘’Apart from the bad roads, the people move round to very far distance from nine to 11 kilometers in search of drinking water,’’ he added.
Another resident of the community, Vincent Uma, who spoke with our correspondent appealed for government’s intervention, stressing the need for good access road, potable water, health and provision of schools in the community.
He said that residents of the community have always been at the mercy of diseases because of the unhygienic water they consume on daily basis.
“We have many demands to make in this community, but our biggest challenge here is good access road and potable water. We must go to the stream as early as 5.00 am, so that we will be able to access the water.
“Most of our residents have suffered from sicknesses arising from drinking the water, but we do not have any other option. We all know that it is not hygienic. That is why we are begging the government to make way for us to have access to clean and drinkable water, because water is life,” he said.
Apart from the challenges of portable water in the community, another resident, Torkima Kpakol also lamented the non-availability of schools for children in the community.
“There are so many children in this community who need to go to school, but we do not have good schools here. We cannot even afford to pay teachers to have them come over to teach our children and you know it is inappropriate for our children to be wandering around because we all know that education is important,’’ Kpakol added.